This is a huge challenge though, as around three billion people worldwide lack the most basic hand washing facilities, with the least developed countries worst affected. Handwashing is the first line of defence, not just against this pandemic, but in preventing the spread of infections more generally. Governments and innovators must step up to the challenge and prioritise achieving UN Global Goal 6, to deliver clean water and sanitation for all by 2030, to address these inequalities. Collectively, nations must also ditch habits that are turning the world’s water supply off.
By 2050, more than 50% of us will face water shortages based on current usage. One factor accelerating the global water crisis is the destruction of rainforests. Every hour the equivalent of 1000 football pitches is lost. Trees are one of our main rainmakers; the water they suck up from the soil and exhale through their leaves as vapour accounts for 40% of rainfall.
Loss of biodiversity and more zoonotic pandemics: infectious diseases that pass from animals to humans – like COVID-19 – are inextricably linked. As animals are forced from their natural environments, complex life systems become unbalanced, interactions are drastically altered, a toxic system results that leads to deadly outcomes – like an increase in zoonotic diseases. The self-destructive treatment of rainforests, which provide humanity with water – and a home for a diverse range of species – is therefore clearly unsustainable.
The point is, it is all connected: people, plants, animals, oceans – the lot – and recklessly cutting bits off will see us all fall down. COVID-19 is changing the world but when the pandemic is over leaders must recognise this interconnectedness; understand that the UN Global Goals are a must, not a handy initiative to show support for during a public speech; and go further in fast-tracking policies that effectively protect the climate.
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