This is a special series for Forest Trends’ closest friends and supporters. I want to make sure we are staying connected during this time of social distancing, cancelled travel, and great uncertainty. In future dispatches, we’ll share some updates on how we’re restructuring our work on the ground this year in light of the coronavirus, and how we see the pandemic affecting big-picture progress in 2020 on the climate and environmental issues we all care about. Stay in touch, and stay well. – Michael
The Coronavirus crisis: How did we get here?
Michael Jenkins, CEO and Founding President, Forest Trends Lyndon Haviland, Chairperson, Foundation Board at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, and Board member, Forest Trends
The short answer is that we as humans are present in more and more places on this planet. As growing populations push back the wilderness frontier around the world – turning forests into cropland or pasture, building roads, digging mines, expanding the trade in wildlife – there are simply more opportunities for a new disease to make the jump from animals to humans.
This collision has been happening in slow motion for decades. Coronavirus is the latest in a string of new infectious diseases, including Ebola, SARS, and avian bird flu, that are on the rise as we continue destroying and degrading habitats around the world. It won’t be the last.
The places with the greatest risk of new infectious diseases originating from animal-to-human transmission are tropical forested regions with a high rate of forest loss and other land use change, and significant wildlife biodiversity. That risk becomes even greater where there’s a bustling illegal trade in wildlife.
Those are the places where Forest Trends’ work is concentrated, as well. As these weeks have shown us, deforestation and the wildlife trade aren’t just a climate or biodiversity risk: they’re also major public health issues, and they’re getting worse.
The coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call to think about how we build greater resilience and prevention in our systems. [Keep reading]
Adventure in your own backyard
British explorer and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nominee Alastair Humphreys coined the term “microadventures” to describe travel that’s “a refresh button for busy lives.” Microadventures are outdoor explorations that are short, close to home, cost little to nothing, and accessible to almost anyone.
We’re all staying close to home these days by necessity. Getting outside is so important for mental and physical health. Why not plan a microadventure?
Camp in the backyard
“This is one of those things that people my age remember fondly from our childhood,” says Humphreys. “It’s interesting that we think that as adults we shouldn’t be doing those things. We should.”
Take a walk after dark
Explore a familiar place in an unfamiliar light, at one of the most peaceful (and least crowded) times of the day. Remember your headlamps!
Build a treehouse
“I built a treehouse last summer with a friend,” says Humphreys. “You can kind of make the design up as you go. It was a deeply satisfying experience. Therapeutic even.”
Solo or Couples
Sit out under the stars
As Humpreys points out, nothing gives you perspective quite like star-gazing. Bring a warm blanket and download an app like Night Sky or Sky View that can help you identify constellations.
Learn to identify birds in your locality and learn the trees in your neighborhood.
Forest Trends’ staff recommend Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID and the Leafsnap apps. Or pull out your old National Audobon field guides.
Swim in a local river, lake, or the ocean
You might have to wait on this one, depending where you live: “Seek the extraordinary in the ordinary. Step away from the pleasant, unsurprising riverside picnic. See the world from a different perspective. Swim a river.”
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