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Webinar: Earth Day 2020 and COVID-19. How Are Environmental and Health Crises Linked?

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22, to demonstrate support for environmental protection and represents a day of action to shift human behaviour and provoke policy changes. The very first celebration took place in 1970, and by now it grew to a staggering global event with celebrations in more than 193 countries involving over a billion people.

Given the urgency of the shared challenge we are facing on Earth, the main objective of this webinar was to present the link between environmental issues and the current health crisis (COVID-19). The emphasis was on two main drivers: i) rapid urbanization and ii) loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as the consequences: hotspots of zoonotic diseases. The conversation addressed how population density, population size, and airline connections explain the rapid spread of COVID-19, and also touched on the ways the global response is providing evidence that coordinated environmental interventions (such as climate or pollution mitigation efforts) can be effective. Moving forward with the reality of a world in which COVID-19 plays a central role, the discussion also focused on cities and how mapping vulnerable populations can be instrumental for decision making.

PRESENTATION SUMMARIES:

  • Dr. Daszak’s presentation focused on his research in identifying and predicting the origins and impact of emerging diseases across the globe, as well as the fundamental connections between human and environmental health.
  • Dr. McPhearson focused on how ‘shelter-in-place’ policies that reduce the transmission and impacts of the coronavirus are driving dramatic shifts in human behavior, including shifting demands for energy, transportation, internet access, and more, including results from the work his team has been conducting in New York City.
  • Dr. Oni focused on the integration of disparate domains into governance systems that serve human health and support sustainable cities.
  • Dr. Wood presented the outcomes of the latest survey COVID-19: Where do we go from here? which captures perceptions of risk and opportunity coming from this crisis as we transition to a more sustainable future.

Overall the presenters highlighted that this outbreak is a result of a much larger global sustainability crisis, coming from human activities which have to radically change for a more healthy planet. The participants were invited throughout the webinar to engage in a Q&A session, which was followed by a discussion between the panelists on how to prevent pandemics such as COVID-19 while simultaneously tackling the environmental crises.

ADDITONAL RESOURCES:

Speakers

Peter Daszak
Timon McPhearson
Tolu Oni
Sylvia Wood

Moderator

Josh Tewksbury

Organizers

Giles Bruno Sioen
Mariela Antonakopoulou