Our health is vital in these times. Climate change is one of the great threats facing the world today, along with pandemics like COVID-19. To protect our communities and our livelihoods, we need to address the problem before it is too late.
What if I told you that natural forests and wetlands are vital to our health and survival?
You would probably ask, “How does that work?” Many of the benefits that healthy, standing forests and wetlands provide are invisible from day to day. They are the ultimate water pumps. They are KEY to ensuring storm and flood protection for our communities, and they provide clean drinking water to millions of Americans.
Forests and wetlands also provide natural air filtration, food, medicine, recreation, and opportunities to create jobs that are geared towards building up, not destroying, our communities and environment.
Forests are home to animals and plants that are important for maintaining balance in the ecosystems that regulate widespread virus outbreaks.
We are facing several threats that compromise our health and survival. These threats include deforestation, loss of habitat, and development.
Big corporations, like the logging and wood pellet industries, drive these threats to our health and survival.
These industries are destroying the critical natural infrastructure that buffers our communities from flooding and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. They are destroying the habitat and biodiversity of these valuable places.
The degradation of forests and wetland forests, along with the pollution of our air and water, have left communities in degraded conditions. These same communities are facing the most significant economic impacts of extreme weather events like hurricanes and flooding.
According to a national study from Harvard University, Coronavirus patients who live in areas with high levels of industrial pollution are at greater risk of dying prematurely.
Industry has targeted environmental justice communities for decades, creating a false image of bringing jobs to the communities.
But these jobs come with a price tag (air pollution, asthma, cancer, and when clearcut logging happens around their communities, flooding becomes more and more frequent). Extreme weather is not going away. In fact, if we keep logging our forests and clearcutting our wetlands (the sponges of the world), communities will experience more flooding and pollution.
Without clean air, communities will be more prone to sickness and more susceptible to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Like a member of The Southeast Climate and Energy Network (SCEN) stated, “COVID-19 is an environmental issue.”
Sonia Shah, author of the 2017 book Pandemic, is an epidemiologist who studied outbreaks ranging from cholera to the West Nile virus to Ebola, and she found:
Human activity that degrades our environment plays a HUGELY under-recognized role in pandemics.
Deforestation and loss of habitat are the prime drivers. In other words, we have overdrawn our natural resources, and now the bill (pandemics like COVID-19) is at our door.
The world’s leading scientists recently revealed clear links between degradation of land and degradation of communities.
More than ever, wetland forest protection should be prioritized in a way that increases community well-being and does not exploit natural resources to benefit the few. Industries have no regard for the consequences that our communities will face if we continue with deforestation.
An estimated 150-200 species go extinct every 24 hours all across the world.
This is alarming because species are a key element of balancing the ecosystems that are essential for all life on our planet.
If we work together, we can save species from extinction and create a new economy that values well-being and healthy habitats where we all can thrive. Leading scientists have determined that restoring degraded land between now and 2030 could generate $9 trillion in environmental benefits, such as clean water, clean air, and increased wildlife, which are essential in this time of climate and pandemic crises.
We must move away from destruction, contamination, and the mentality of a quick return on investments that only benefit a few.
Your voice is valuable!