By Prof. Dr.Polyxeni Nicolopoulou Stamati MD. PhD.*
No one can deny that Coronavirus Pandemic appeared in an impaired environment we are all living in, and we are experiencing its consequences. Biodiversity loss, intensive agriculture using immense bulk amounts of pesticides, wildfires, deforestation, and global warming that has brought climate change are here. It is obvious that wildlife animals have lost their nests and ones housed for food consumption are fed with antibiotics and hormones.
Months now after the onset of the appearance of the Coronavirus in our lives, we still do not know exactly his “birth history” and as such we cannot predict his life cycle. In any case, whatever the origin of this new virus is, it is part of our everyday life as it is asking for our intense attention to avoid contact with him or it (as it is not a live creature).
Lets for a moment travel to far China, Wu Han the place where Coronavirus Pandemic claims its origin and is quite near the tremendous Three Gorges Dam. The Chinese Province is enjoying the miracle of the advanced technology but also is paying the price simultaneously suffering the consequences of the progress of civilization. The story starts with detailed planning for the Three Gorges Dam project that began in 1955. Its promoters insisted it would control disastrous flooding, enhance inland trade, and provide much-needed power for central China, but the dam was also criticized. Criticism of the Three Gorges project began as soon as the plans were proposed and continued through its construction. Key problems demonstrated included the danger of dam collapse, the displacement of some 1.3 million people living in more than 1,500 cities, towns, and villages along the river, and the destruction of magnificent scenery and countless rare architectural and archaeological sites. There were also fears that human and industrial waste from cities would pollute the reservoir and even that the huge amount of water impounded in the reservoir could trigger earthquakes and landslides. Some Chinese and foreign engineers argued that a number of smaller and far-cheaper and less-problematic dams could generate as much power as the Three Gorges Dam and control flooding equally with the added value that they could avoid Major Ecological interventions, but they were not heard.
What happened due to the abrupt intervention to the biodiversity of the region and to which extent the Three Gorges Damn is related to the disturbed wildlife of Bats, snakes, and Pangolins that are declared as the origin of Coronavirus the cause of COVID-19 is still pending. Of course, we will probably never be certain of what really happened and coronavirus entered in our life. However, we are facing a global disaster and no one can ignore that there is evidence that the virus is a “suspect “of this geographical region escaping to our world that has been the stage of the theatre of a major Ecological intervention.
It is rather strange that Human beings even though we are living in a society that has priced all our purchases, is not teaching us respect for the real value of the clean air the safe water, and the healthy soil, essentials for our well-being. On the contrary, we grow and live in a society with the assumption that we control life on the planet, and we have the illusion that we have the right to consume the planet’s capacity endlessly. We live in the age of Anthropocentrism. The current perception of the society is considering humans as the most important creatures in the Universe, or at least on the planet Earth, ignoring that the highly impaired polluted Ecosystem is closely related to diseases that have been the mortality and morbidity cofactors of Coronavirus incidence. Our impaired environment predisposes public health to a poor immune response to viruses and other causes of diseases especially for the vulnerable groups, of the elderly and children.
What we saw happening in this pandemic is that most people dying from COVID-19 belong to the vulnerable group of elderly, but also had underlying diseases or causes that predisposed them. The coronavirus acted as a facilitator and as such the numbers of the deaths attributed specifically to the coronavirus were difficult to calculate precisely. This situation raised discussions and contradictory explanations and has not been helpful in showing the whole picture of the pandemic. However, there are things to be considered as the spread of the virus was more likely to be in densely populated cities where the air is recycled in air-conditioned apartments and offices, where most persons affected are always at risk from airborne infections. Furthermore, we should think of exposure to DNA damaging and immunosuppressant electro pollution. Telecommunication and other devices emitting non-ionizing radiation and electromagnetic fields of varying intensity where people live and work exposed to 5G are of particular concern. Microwave energy is documented to kill insects and for this, it is now being installed in U.S. stadiums. Closing them and all crowd-containing events at this time, especially with people being exposed to these forms of electropollution, maybe wisely extended. Less is best concerning exposure to man-made environmental pollutants.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has generated a tremendous crisis but at the same time, we should hope to see that it represents an unexpected opportunity to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and resilient economy and to raise awareness on the environmental impact on health. Of course, it is possible and most probable that societies emerging from the pandemic will be tempted to return to business as usual. It is the duty of scientists to work together with governments in order to develop strategies that will address the new novel steps essential to be taken for our survivor. Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary approach should build the infrastructures that can be instrumental to end this and avoid another similar disaster.
This emerging disease that turned to a pandemic is not the last one. Others that are likely to become pandemics in the future, calling for ever more vaccines and medications most probably will appear. Problems will occur as long as preventive medicine remains human-centered and does not develop a strategy towards the One Health approach. Wildlife poaching, trafficking, habitat encroachment, and our ever-increasing human numbers and consumption of animals wild and domesticated will always pose a threat to health. Furthermore, exposure to climate change and carbon pollution are pre-existing conditions that make us more likely to die from viruses and the COVID-19
The best scenario would be that all the suffering, death, grieving and economic impact of this latest COVID-19 pandemic may change how we chose to live: Most especially our collective exploitation and consumption of animals that bring on such pandemics and other zoonotic diseases along with accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity.
Combating and controlling zoonotic infections effectively requires researchers to use a “One World – One Health” perspective. The principal aim of One Health is to organize a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration between medical doctors, vets and environment scientists The rationale is to use and collaborate within already established research structures for developing instrumental strategies in the frame of the Precautionary Principle that will engulf existing environmental impact on Health, as Air pollution, Chemical /Endocrine Disrupters/ Climate Change and Electromagnetic Fields, in other words, every toxic environmental exposure aiming at securing the planet from foreseen disasters.
* Prof. Dr.Polyxeni Nicolopoulou Stamati MD. PhD. Is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Pathology Medical School University of Athens. Founder since 2004 of MSc :Environment and Health Capacity Building for decision Making . Academic Director of Long Distance Learning Course of University of Athens : Interdisciplinary Approach of Climate Change https://hygieia.gr/programs/ekpa-ekpaideftiko-programma-perivallon-ygeia-klimatiki-allagi/ and is chairing ENSSER European Scientists for Social and Environmental responsibility https://ensser.org/