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Normandy Chair for Peace featured Haub Law Professor Nicholas A. Robinson's piece "GLOBAL HEALTH AS A FOUNDATION FOR WORLD PEACE: PREVENTING THE “NEXT” PANDEMIC"

04/17/2020

Normandy Chair for Peace featured Haub Law Professor Nicholas A. Robinson's piece "GLOBAL HEALTH AS A FOUNDATION FOR WORLD PEACE: PREVENTING THE “NEXT” PANDEMIC"

There can be no peace on the Earth until there is peace with the Earth. This holistic concept of peace embraces present and future generations of humans and all other living beings. The novel coronavirus that now is visiting devastation and death in human societies among all countries and all peoples, demonstrates this reality.

 On the centenary of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, we are learning once again the that pathogens can infect humans quickly, powerfully, and lethally.  Too many styli view a disease like COVID-19 as an “act of God” or an unpredictable event. Such misguided beliefs ignore the scientific evidence that humans have created the disruptions of nature, which unleashed the viruses upon caused  human communities. A century of scientific research has produced the ecological knowledge that has established how bacteria and viruses can live in wildlife safely without spilling over to infect humans. Ecology also teaches that if we disrupt natural habitats, we dislodge the pathogens which seek new homes in us. Since the 1980s, the science of Virology has taught us how novel coronaviruses function and spread. For example, when humans push development into forests, without knowing the consequences, they unleash diseases. See, for example,  Bloomfield, L.S.P., McIntosh, T.L. & Lambin, E.F., “Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa.” Landscape Ecol 35, 985–1000 (2020). 

Sadly, nonetheless, governments largely ignore what we know today.

The  “COVID-19” Pandemic disease is a brutal reminder, for people everywhere, that human health persists only when the ambient environment also is healthy. When humans pollute their air and water, they fall ill. When humans allow their food to become contaminated, either by improperly using pesticides on crops or allowing dangerous chemicals to bioaccumulate in the food chain, humans become ill. So too, when a virus like SARS-CoV-2 infects every country across the Earth, we confront a public health emergency that is the result of human misbehavior that impairs the health of nature.

That the Covid-19 Pandemic erupted is a signal of “too little, too late.” What can be done to avert such a calamity in the first place? What must be done Post-COVID-19? The Normandie Chair for Peace, with its focus on justice for future generations and for species in addition to humans, explore the jurisprudence that can prevent another pandemic like the one ravishing humans across the Earth in 2020. Let us explore how this pandemic unfolded.

On New Year’s Eve, the World Health Organization was informed of a cluster of the pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. The source was soon identified as a novel coronavirus, soon to be identified as “SARS-CoV-2.” Scientists assigned the name, “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” or SARS, to the novel coronavirus that first emerged in 2002. The second iteration of this virus is more complex and harmful to humans. On  January 30th, the Director-General of the WHO declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”  Then, on March 11, 2020, WHO declared this disease to be a Pandemic.

All nations were unprepared for the speed and power by which SARS-CoV-2 spread. Many political leaders professed to be surprised. However, such viruses are not uncommon. Humans and animals naturally host and travel with a multitude of pathogens, including viruses. Viruses can infect their carriers, leading to disease and possibly death. They can also be innocuous.. When human activity dislodges a virus from its natural animal host, it seeks a new “reservoir host.” The new host may appear unperturbed, and can then pass the virus on to humans or other animals that become then become ill, infected by the virus. When conditions permit, viruses in animals can spillover to humans, multiply and in rarer cases transmit from human to human. This is what is happening with SARS-CoV-2.

Read the full Normandy Chair for Peace article.