Isaiah 24: 4
The earth mourns and withers; the world wastes away and withers; the lofty people of the earth waste away
COVID-19 made us realise that our health is deeply connected to the health of nature.
Deforestation and forest degradation are major drivers of zoonotic diseases (that jump from animals to humans). When healthy, forests are a buffer against diseases like Covid-19. But when forests are under attack, their safeguards are weakened, leading to a spillover of diseases.
The spread and emergence of these new diseases is yet another tragic consequence and indicator of the accelerating pressure we’re putting on natural systems, and the devastating loss of nature driven by our current unsustainable development models.
Forests are a lifeblood of our economies and our health – from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Covering nearly one-third of the Earth’s land area, forests are home to more than half of the world’s land-based species and are the source of 75% of the world’s freshwater.
More than a billion people live in and around forests, and they are the physical and spiritual home to many indigenous peoples and local communities. Forests are key carbon sinks – tropical forests alone store seven times more carbon than humanity emits every year and draw down up to 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon annually.
Yet forests today are in crisis, devastated by fires, converted and degraded for agriculture, for fuel and for timber. The mismanagement of the world’s forests is ramping up carbon emissions, ravaging biodiversity, destroying vital ecosystems, and affecting the livelihoods and wellbeing of local communities as well as societies globally. And the situation is getting worse.
The world’s current unsustainable food systems mean that instead of repurposing degraded land for sustainable agricultural use, forests, savannahs and grasslands continue to be destroyed.
It’s time to value what nature provides to us, and a key focus for that action has to be our forests.