By Yolanda Kakabadse , former President of WWF International and Board member of Arabesque
Humans are apparently unaware or at least seem to care little about our planetary boundaries. This statement can be supported by the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production that we follow as a society. Irrational demands from an exponentially growing population that surpasses our planet’s carrying capacity, generating in addition an enormous, unnecessary, and unmanageable amount of waste. It is under these conditions that COVID-19 has propagated around the world in a matter of months due to the incredible interconnectedness of peoples, cultures, and countries of this globalized world.
While the Coronavirus pandemic has caused an immense amount of harm to all countries around the world, it has certainly given us an opportunity to reflect upon problems that have existed for a long time and have come to float during this crisis. By increasing our global connectivity, we have also increased systemic risks. The systems on which we depend such as environment, health, food production, information and industry, amongst others, are widely interdependent and from what is now evident, extremely fragile and vulnerable. If one dimension finds itself affected, so too will others in a matter of time. It is therefore not surprising that this new virus has become a global threat in such a short time.
The loss of habitat, wild species trade and consumption, as well as global warming and the consequent vector migration of new diseases, are scientifically proven as causative of illness, death and potentially, global catastrophes. This virus is the result of deteriorated ecosystems and an abusive relationship between humans and nature which could have been avoided. In pre-pandemic mindsets, the environmental agenda was not a priority for decision makers in normal or crisis times. Today, we recognize that if nature and environmental quality had been treated as a priority, COVID-19 could have been avoided.
The COVID-19 pandemic forces humans to rethink economic and social systems and by such, the way in which we interact with the environment. This is precisely what is meant with the word ‘renaissance’; the renewed creation of something. And that something means new frameworks for economic development through sustainable business practices that values biodiversity, and recognizes that human health depends on the health of the environment.
There are some good lessons to learn from this pandemic: human societies and their organizations can shift from one pattern of behavior to another in no time if there is enough political will and/or social pressure. Can we apply this lesson to address other risks, such as climate change? And can we move quick enough to reduce the impacts we know are coming?