Consuming animal meat is the primary source of infectious disease, as covid-19 morosely illustrated. As forests continue to be lost to human devastation, the unleashing of new diseases is expectable.
Over half of the world’s arable land has been converted to agriculture or hosts a city. Tropical forests have suffered the most, with some of the highest rates of agricultural conversion over the last few decades. In Africa, 3/4ths of recent forest loss went to growing crops. Outside protected parks and preserves, what remains are islands of forest in a sea of farmland.
The proximity of people to forest creatures invariably turns wildlife into eaten meat. This gives pathogens carte blanche to adapt to new hosts – exactly what happened when infected pangolins in China were put to market, thus birthing a worldwide catastrophe. “Deforestation and poverty can spark a global pandemic,” said American environmentalist Laura Bloomfield.
Laura S.P. Bloomfield et al, “Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa,” Landscape Ecology (1 April 2020).
“How forest loss leads to spread of disease,” ScienceDaily (7 April 2020).