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The invisible link between the emergence of new epidemics, deforestation and our consumption and production patterns

2020 will go down in history as the year we faced the Covid-19 pandemic. 2019 as the year in which, from the Amazon to Australia, we reached record levels of forest destruction on the planet. Two apparently separate phenomena that depend on each other and both on our consumption and production models.

Deforestation and new epidemics

The WWF report “The loss of nature and rise of pandemics” demonstrates, by listing a series of scientific publications, the direct link between deforestation and increased risk that new viruses and bacteria can spread, exactly as happened in the past with diseases such as Ebola or HIV. “Every time we destroy ecosystems we expose ourselves to new viruses because we create extraordinary conditions for them,” says Isabella Pratesi, forest manager for WWF Italia. “This is because viruses that were previously kept at bay by ecosystems such as forests, suddenly have a unique opportunity to leave the few hundred monkeys or the few thousand animals that parasitized, to pass on to nearly eight billion human beings. Viruses are experiencing an epochal change, they can finally spread as much as possible “.

Deforestation and Made in Italy

According to FAO, 70 percent of deforestation in the world is linked to agricultural production, in particular (80 percent) to the expansion of soybean pastures and monocultures (especially in South America) and oil palm plantations (Indonesia and Malaysia ). “These are raw materials that are generally intended for export, in particular to China, Europe and the United States”, says Francesco De Augustinis, author of the documentary Deforestation Made in Italy, published in 2019 and available for free streaming on the website www .deforestazionemadeinitaly.it. The documentary reveals the link between the main excellences of Made in Italy and tropical deforestation through the importation into Europe and Italy of raw materials such as wood, soy, beef, leather, palm oil and cocoa. “Deforestation seems a distant phenomenon, the causes and consequences of which are difficult to understand. What we are experiencing today obliges us more than ever to understand how directly our way of producing and consuming is connected, and that our survival on this planet can depend on the choices we make ”.

According to Giorgio Vacchiano, a researcher in forest management and planning at the State University of Milan, “the link between deforestation and the emergence of new viruses has already been denounced in the past for other epidemics by robust scientific studies. It’s not that cities are expanding into the forest, “explains Vacchiano,” but human activities are expanding that are taking the place of these tropical forests. The cultivation of soybeans, the cultivation of palm oil in Indonesia, the creation of new pastures, are all things that bring humans into contact with this kind of pathogens “.

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