Is COVID-19 really a blessing for Mother Nature?

During this lockdown period, social media and news channels flooded with stories of Kangaroos exploring the streets of Adelaide, crab-eating fox roaming around Bogot√° suburbs, Penguins running free in Cape Town, coupled with reports of clean air, even over the most polluted cities around the world like Delhi, Seoul and Los Angeles. Although this may sound to most of us as a silver lining, these reports give the misleading impression that Mother Earth stands to benefit from the restrictions on movement imposed on people around the world, especially in cities. The situation is very different in the rural areas. The main source of income for people living outside urban areas is nature, with fishing, hunting, and logging essential to support livelihoods and provide food, owing to the quarantine. People who moved to cities have now lost their employment and income opportunities and thus increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to rural areas further increasing the pressure on natural resources. The opportunist and criminal groups involved in deforestation, land-grabbing, illegal mining, and wildlife poaching are taking advantage of the fact that governments are focused on COVID-19 instead of on conservation. Meanwhile, illegal mining for gold and precious stones in Latin America and Africa is on the rise, as prices spike and protected areas are left unguarded. As tourism has come to a halt, areas dependent on tourism to fund conservation ‚’ such as community conservancies in Kenya and iconic natural World Heritage Sites like the Gal√°pagos, Ecuador, and the Tabatha Reef in the Philippines ‚’ are facing reduced resources. Adding to the above crisis, there are reports of increased deforestation in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This gives the false impression that the protection of nature is a secondary concern in controlling disease outbreaks like the current pandemic.




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