Conserve environment to avoid pandemics

Environmentalists planting trees.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • When human activity threatens species with extinction, the ecosystem collapses.
  • That could result in unregulated growth of one species at the expense of others and can affect human health.

Scientists have identified environmental destruction, driven by human activities — such as deforestation, clearing land for infrastructural expansion and the hunting of wildlife — as a major cause of pandemic and endemic disease outbreaks.

Environmental degradation causes breakdown of ecosystems — a naturally balanced system where diverse species interact at intra and inter-specific levels.

When human activity threatens species with extinction, the ecosystem collapses and that could result in unregulated growth of one species at the expense of others and can affect human health.

Small mammals, like rodents, tend to replace the bigger ones when land is cleared. They are more likely to be attacked by viruses and other pathogens under unbalanced conditions for reasons that are not yet known.

This unusual pathogen attack has been blamed for outbreaks of human and animal pandemics and endemic diseases such as Rift Valley Fever, Ebola, Sars and now Covid-19.

Cases of malaria, tuberculosis and chronic obstructive respiratory disease conditions are also on the increase. There has also been a rise in global temperatures, favouring severity of emerging diseases, droughts and famines.

With such adverse conditions affecting human survival, peaceful implementation of the Constitution and constitutionalism becomes a challenge. Human health is a basic human right enshrined in the Constitution as governments face serious challenges in meeting this responsibility with limited resources. Sick people cannot raise taxes to effectively make nation-states to provide sufficient healthcare.

The current pandemic has also disrupted economic growth, which has negatively affected the funding of the Judiciary, rendering discharge of justice ineffective. Education, a basic human right, has also been affected.

Constitutional review must address the need for environmental conversation as the basis for peaceful and healthy environment within which constitutions operate.

Anthropogenic activities that destroy our very own survival are a threat to the social, economic and cultural order.

An integrated multi-sectoral approach to environmental conservation must be incorporated in national government policies.

The ministries in charge of health, education, trade, natural resources and constitutional order must forge a united, yet collaborative approach to environmental conservation.

If the environment is taken care of, there will be neither pandemic nor endemic diseases and the billions of shillings spent on vaccines and medicines can be used to improve livelihoods.


Dr P.M. Mutua, immunologist, Makueni