Epidemics and global environmental change are intertwined

Epidemics and global environmental change are intertwined
  • Astrid Elise Haselberg

    PhD Candidate, Institute of Marine Research

  • Michael S Bank

    researcher at marine research institute

Travel activities have spread the virus far beyond the original range, the post’s authors wrote. Photo: Health workers in protective gear treat coronary heart patients in Wuhan on February 6, 2020.

But it is not contacted by the research communities.

This is the topic of discussion. Opinions expressed in the text are at the author’s expense.

Many see the Corona epidemic as a single problem facing humanity, while climate change and other challenges await it.

But when these phenomena are presented as separate challenges, Key contexts are undercommunicated. The same goes for the fact that both are symptoms of how human activity affects our planet.

The links between epidemics and global environmental changes should therefore be communicated more clearly than the research communities.

the origin

Increased urbanization and encroachment on the habitats of wild species. These are global changes to which the origins of the pandemic can be traced.

Encroachments on wild species may have contributed to the transmission of sars-cov-2 virus from animals to humans. Travel has caused the virus to spread beyond its original reach.

The virus’s spread pattern can thus be compared to that of an invasive species – a consistent sign of global environmental change.


As a result of covid-19, human activity has been regulated by various restrictions. This in turn affects various environmental factors.

Lockdowns and travel restrictions may have reduced the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand, activity in other sectors increased significantly. This is especially true for the production of single-use plastic products, such as medical protective equipment, bandages and food packaging.

Neither viruses nor plastic pollution can be stopped by national borders

Waste management was a widespread global problem before COVID-19. Now it is likely that more plastic products will end up in nature. The plastic breaks into smaller pieces. These microplastics, in turn, can affect ecosystems on land and in water.

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Extensive use of disinfection chemicals can lead to environmental pollution. And not only that: it can also lead to the spread of resistant microbes.


Climate change is also linked to new infectious diseases, food security and public health. It illustrates the complex interaction between man and the environment.

The way epidemics unfold and global change also have some common features:

  • Both contribute to the weakening of international cooperation
  • Preventing it is less expensive than repairing
  • It reinforces the differences between citizens, regions and countries.

Global change and pandemics also highlight the human capacity to manage crises, which often come at the expense of long-term and sustainable strategies.

The paths that lead to solutions will be different. Concrete measures will vary. However, international cooperation is absolutely crucial to achieving global goals.

the future

There has been extensive media coverage and political focus on the direct consequences of Corona. Thus, the fight against global change, such as climate change, may have been given less space.

The close connection between the coronavirus and global change can help convey a unified message to both the public and politicians.

Curricula and teaching should focus more on the interaction between epidemics and global environmental change. This should also increasingly be disseminated in the research communities. Then we believe the changes will take effect more easily.

Neither viruses nor plastic pollution can be stopped by national borders. Challenges can only be solved through global cooperation.

Researchers and decision makers must develop a unified agenda. This may involve the development and increased interaction between existing bodies. It can also include setting up a new organization for that specific purpose.

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Regardless of the action: It is time to convey the links between human activity and global change as a whole. This is how we can find common solutions for a sustainable future.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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