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Sustainably Yours: Preventing the next pandemic

On January 13, 2020, Thailand had its first reported case of COVID-19 in Bangkok. It was also the first case outside of China, so the pandemic has been with us for about one year. 

By Palmer Owyoung

Sunday 24 January 2021, 10:00AM

Smarter, more conscientious, shopping is one way to reduce our impact on the planet in so many ways. Photo: Juli Kosolapova / Unsplash

Smarter, more conscientious, shopping is one way to reduce our impact on the planet in so many ways. Photo: Juli Kosolapova / Unsplash

While it is difficult to determine the exact number of deaths in the middle of a pandemic, the virus hasn’t hit Thailand as hard as the US and Europe. 

While nobody is exactly sure why, it is likely because of a combination of factors. These include prior exposure to infectious diseases, heat and humidity reducing transmissibility, the culture of not shaking hands, wearing masks because of pollution and government intervention that altogether has helped prevent the spread of the disease from becoming far worse.   

Cost of Pandemic

A study published in Science July 2020, by Princeton Professor of Ecology Andrew Dobson estimated the cost of COVID-19 will be around US$5 trillion. However, this calculation only accounts for lost world GDP, in other words the amount of goods that were not produced. It doesn’t consider the human cost. 

A recent study estimates that in the United States alone it is closer to US$16 trillion when the cost of long-term health care for COVID victims, the loss of life, treatment for mental health and loss of GDP over the next 10 years is accounted for. 

By comparison, World War 2 cost the US$4.1 trillion in today’s dollars, according to data from the Congressional Research Service. 

Preventing the Next Pandemic

Professor Dobson’s study estimates that preventing a pandemic would cost about US$30 billion per year. Which means it would have cost about 500 times less to prevent COVID-19 than it will to deal with the fallout from the virus.

The plan includes reducing deforestation, restricting the trade of wild animals, early detection and monitoring efforts, and prevention of spillover into farm animals.

Two of the largest factors driving emerging pathogens are the destruction of rainforests and the trade in wild animals. Deforestation can take place for several reasons including land expansion for farming, building roads, development, timber, and mining. 

Dewa Phuket Resort

The trade in wildlife occurs mainly as a source of food, exotic pets, or as medicine. Most of this trade takes place in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

What You Can Do

Don’t support the wildlife trade by attending animal shows, having your photos taken with endangered species, or buying exotic pets. Be especially careful about taking traditional Chinese medicine that uses animal parts, which is not scientifically proven to work, and can actually be harmful.

Eat less meat. Domesticated animals are also a risk for disease transfer because we deforest a lot of land to raise them and grow their food. This increases contact with wild animals, which can transfer pathogens to domesticated animals through their feces, then pass them to humans.    

Purchase products made with sustainable palm oil. This is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world and is in everything from food to cosmetics, so it’s nearly impossible to avoid. The problem is that rainforests, mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia, are being clear cut so we can grow palm trees for the oil that is derived from the fruit. Sustainable palm oil is produced by using better forest management techniques, not clear cutting, and maintaining biodiversity. You can download the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping App or check the World Wild Life Fund Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard to see which companies use it. You can find out more at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Support Rewilding Projects The Half Earth Project is working to create a sustainable and bio-diverse world by rewilding half the world’s forests and oceans.

Have fewer children, or if you are on the fence about them, go without. Most studies show that people who don’t have children are on average just as happy as those that don’t have them.

Buy a smaller home and own less stuff. Everything we buy has a price in terms of the carbon that is released when it is made and the raw materials that it is made from. Computers, smartphones and other gadgets are made from rare earth minerals that must be mined. They make the cases from plastic, which is derived from oil that we must drill for. We throw away half of all food that is grown, and Americans throw away an average of 81 pounds of clothes per year. 

Gandhi said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Before the pandemic there was already a movement toward minimalism. Some say it makes you happier, freer and less stressed. Now you have one more reason to buy less stuff.

Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist working with the Kamala Green Club and the Global Sustainability Hub.

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cpfleger | 24 January 2021 - 23:10:50

C'mon - when b*llsh*tting then please do it correctly ;) 
"Most studies show that people who don’t have children are on average just as happy as those that don’t have them." 
If the same group of people is just on average feeling the same...


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