There’s never been such a stark reminder of the connection between the health of the natural environment and public health. HIV, Ebola, Hendra, SARS, MERS, bird flu and now COVID-19 have all jumped from animals to people. Three-quarters of new infectious diseases in people originate from animals, either wild animals or livestock. The destruction of ecosystems, along with the capture and selling of multiple species of wild animals in markets, is threatening us all.
COVID-19 has led to the whole Kimberley being locked down as a designated area under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act to protect vulnerable people, particularly in Aboriginal communities across the region. This is as it should be; our work reminds us of the encyclopaedic knowledge elders have of plants, animals, places, weather and other cultural information, and this crisis shows how vulnerable people and their knowledge are. The magnitude of what we are facing is such that it can only be managed through a partnership between Kimberley people and governments. EK stands with Aboriginal people in that partnership.
The global response to this pandemic is unequalled and it has exposed the injustices in economic systems from inadequately funded healthcare provision, unjustifiably low levels of support for the unemployed and inequities for casually employed people. While India, which has 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, now sees blue skies for the first time in 10 years, according to some observers, and fossil fuel emissions from the airline industry have plummeted, mountains of waste are piling up from non-recyclable coffee cups (reusable ones not being accepted) and medical waste has quadrupled in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.
When we get through this pandemic we have an unrivalled opportunity for a new future. We should never return to what we had before, economically or politically. Let’s use this period of forced shutdown to imagine and work towards a different future. Everyone’s life has been transformed while we try to get through this pandemic with the fewest possible casualties. We’re looking at several more months of using our time to care for each other and think productively and creatively to adopt practices that will endure beyond the crisis.
EK will be posting regular advice about producing food, interacting with nature while adding to knowledge about plants, online seagrass monitoring, and practical tips on weeding and growing native plants. Stay safe.