On Monday May 11, Dominick DellaSala, lead scientist with the Geo Institute in Ashland, Oregon, talks with Locus Focus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal reminder of how out of balance our planet has become. Decades of explosive human population growth and an increasingly mobile population have put us in close contact, squeezed natural habitats, and forced wild animals to occupy cities or perish. These factors play a significant role in causing and spreading pandemics, like the one that is now shutting down the world.
We’ll discuss how confined animal feed operations, poaching, overhunting, and consumption of wild animals as food or trade can also spark novel virues to jump from other wild species to humans—which is what has happened with COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is a distress signal coming to us from imperiled ecosystems and wildlife; it is not a one-off event. The best gift we could give not just our planet but ourselves is to start viewing strong environmental policy as preventive medicine.
Listen to the April 27th Jefferson Exchange radio interview with Dr. Dominick DellaSala and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Franz Baumann connecting Earth, natural systems, and human health.
The butterfly effect is a thought experiment about how a small change in a system—a butterfly flapping its wings—can ripple through complex, interconnected systems, eventually cascading into larger events, like a tornado in Oklahoma. Despite having been popularized by the 1993 Jurassic Park movie, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
While there’s uncertainty about how the novel coronavirus originally infected people, it might have started as viral spillover (transfer) from bats or other wild animals. One emerging hypothesis based on DNA evidence is that, because of natural habitat destruction, horseshoe bats in China were forced into cities. Under increased stress, the bats shed viruses that were picked up by people and perhaps other animals in an early infection cluster. Alarmingly, some 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases worldwide are exchanged between humans and wild animals. Think West Nile, Lyme, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Zika. The deadly Ebola outbreak has been linked to deforestation in Africa and to virus spillover from consumption of primates or bats that places hunters, consumers, and wildlife at risk.
By Dominick DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann
Published Monday, April 20th 2020 at the Medford Mail Tribune
The staggering loss of life from the coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily lives into chaos. Whenever it is deemed safe enough to leave the protective bubble of our homes, the world will be markedly different. To reduce the chances of the next pandemic, human and planetary health need to be solved together, as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The leading hypothesis on how the virus originally infected people in China is that it started in clusters as viral spillover from infected bats and possibly other wild animals forced into close proximity with people. But don’t blame bats or the Chinese for the Earth out of balance.
In a June 15, 2018 article by Lucy Goodchild Van Hilten discusses the connection between climate change and the spread of Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases with Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute.
“Climate change is not an environmental problem,” he said. “It’s human health, economic impact, social dislocation and social injustice, with environment thrown in there too. This is the multiplicity of impacts we’re at the beginning phase of seeing, even before we hit the 2˚C change, which is on the horizon.
Read the full article at Alternet.org
Go to Yale Climate Connections to listen to commentary by Dominick DellaSala on how his daughter contracted Lyme disease from ticks, which may be spreading because of climate change.
Yale Climate Connections consists of 90-second stories about how people are responding to our warming world.
Umair Irfan, E&E News reporter
Published: Friday, July 28, 2017
The eight-legged bloodsuckers that spread Lyme disease are crawling farther north and infecting more people due to climate change, scientists report.
Rising average temperatures are making more parts of North America hospitable to the Ixodesticks that carry Lyme disease.
The infection’s range is expected to move northward into Canada by 250 to 500 kilometers (155 to 310 miles) by 2050, and the season for the disease may start up to two weeks earlier than it does now. Health officials report similar patterns in Europe.
And human-caused climate change is a major contributing factor, scientists say.
In a recent Jefferson Public Radio interview, Dr. Dominick DellaSala (co-editor of The Ecological Importance of Mixed- Severity Fires and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene) discusses how climate change aids the spread of Lyme disease.
In the interview, he states that the animals that normally carry ticks (deer, mice, etc.) are surviving through the warmer winters coupled by the lack of top predators. He goes on to say with the warmer weather, the ticks could start making way to more northern parts of the world like Canada and Scandinavia thus putting more people at risk to the disease.
You can listen to his interview here.
Climate change is NOT an environmental problem – new research has increasingly pointed to a link between climate change and the spread of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease. The decision by the Trump administration to pull out of the Paris climate change accords is only going to increase the spread of diseases associated with a warming planet.
Related article: “How climate change helped Lyme disease invade America” (Vox)
Download the factsheet: Lyme Disease Spreading Due to Climate Change and Human Activities, by Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D.
Geos Institute depends on the generous support of caring people who believe we can and must do a better job addressing climate change for our children and those who will follow.