On November 20, 2021, Dr. Zhou Jinfeng, Secretary-General of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), delivered a speech at the first World Health Forum (WHF2021) with the theme of “The Significance of Biodiversity Conservation to Human Health”. Due to the epidemic, the conference was held online.
Sponsored by the Vanke School of Public Health in Tsinghua University, WHF2021 sets the theme of “Building a resilient Public Health System”, aiming at promoting cross-border cooperation and offering policy advice to decision-makers. The Biological and Scientific Committee (BASE) from CBCGDF now presents you Dr. Zhou’s on-site speech as follows.
Biodiversity consists of three levels. One is genetic diversity, then species diversity, and finally ecosystem diversity. Many experts have just talked about the important relationship between climate change and health, so what is the relationship between climate change and biodiversity? Climate change is an important factor in ecosystems, including climate, environment, and many other factors. Ecosystem diversity is 1 / 3 of biodiversity, and climate diversity is 1 / 10 or 1% of ecosystem diversity. Sharp changes in the climate that constitutes such a small proportion of biodiversity—the so-called drastic changes of only 1.5 degrees can have a significant impact on human health.
In this way, how much impact will the overall biodiversity have on human health? The impact is very huge. It is divided into three levels. The first level is the direct impact on human health. More than 70% of human infectious diseases came from nature, including AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19. The unrestricted expansion of human activity to nature leads to the massive migration of bacteria and viruses from nature to human—the most direct impact of biodiversity on human health.
The second level is the food products. Food also has a very significant impact on human health. The impact of food on human health is reflected in two levels—food security and food safety. Specifically, all the foods that we eat daily, due to antibiotic contamination and pesticide residues, can have a significant impact on our health. Both the long-term and short-term effects of food on humans are significant. Neither antibiotics nor pesticides in food has less impact on human health than climate.
The third level is the environment. In addition to the factors mentioned by other experts earlier, climate factors including the air, oxygen, carbon dioxide have also changed significantly since the industrial civilization. Although the impact on higher level animals, mammals, including people is not so obvious, but the impact on the whole ecosystem and the indirect impact on people are very huge. For example, an insignificant street lamp, will bring about the light pollution problem. In the past, we often saw a large number of dead insects under the street lights, but now we can’t see them, why? It is not that the light pollution of street lamps is gone, but that the number of insects has been greatly reduced.
Germany has conducted a long-term study of five national reserves for more than 20 years. What are the conclusions? 80% of the pollinating insects in German reserves have gone in over 20 years, and the loss of biodiversity is huge and striking, a finding with a fundamental impact on human survival. We talked about the climate that changed dramatically in 100,000 years, and if we looked at biodiversity, after the 5th bioextinction 65 million years ago, now we are facing a much faster 6th bioextinction.
In addition to the climate, the environment also includes light, atmosphere and soil, and the whole human habitat is facing the huge impact of industrial civilization. Our rivers used to be free-flowing rivers, which nurtured the entire human ecosystem of the planet, but today, countless dams are built on almost every river, and life cannot flow freely. You know that many water creatures have to go back to spawning and migrate, and now these are blocked.
We are faced today with the comprehensive changes in biodiversity from industrial civilization, the climate is only 1% of them, and these fundamental changes are very serious threats to human survival. Some are what we can perceive, like COVID-19 and climate change, but the others, like biodiversity loss, we cannot notice until somebody reminds us.
Since the signing of the Convention on Biodiversity in 1992, humanity has been committed to slowing down the loss of biodiversity a little bit. We are not maintaining biodiversity, improving biodiversity, or restoring biodiversity, we are slowing down the rate of biodiversity loss a little bit. In 2015, the Chinese government submitted the UN Millennium Plan to the United Nations saying that China had only one of the eight tasks—the 7b “Biodiversity loss has slowed down” unfinished. The Chinese government has failed to accomplish the task after 15 years’ hard work, and the entire mankind failed as well. In 2010, the United Nations proposed another 10-year goal and formulated a plan to comprehensively prevent the loss of biodiversity. But before this year’s COP15 in Kunming, how did the vast majority of scientists evaluate the completion of the goal? There is no task that we have fully accomplished. Many scientists and politicians now talk at this year’s COP15 about launching a new post-2020 biodiversity framework to guide how we need to solve this problem in the future. The discussion was very heated and had good results, and the Kunming Declaration came into being. First of all, we should be sure that it is not easy for the heads to reach this declaration to show direction for our future, but some experts say it is not specific enough, and some say it is not ambitious enough. With such a huge challenge, we should set as ambitious and specific goal as that of 1.5℃.
And what is the situation in China? First, we have achieved a decisive victory in the impact of industrial pollution on the environment and biodiversity. Our large-scale work on a series of regulations on industrial pollution of water, gas and soil has achieved remarkable results. But the challenges of biodiversity loss are even more severe than the climate crisis, we are far from achieving the goal of slowing down biodiversity loss, and we are far from protecting it well. Some people say that we need to protect the earth, in fact, what we need to protect is human habitat. In the protection of human habitat, we still haven’t seen the dawn till today. With the thought of ecological civilization, China has taken the lead in biodiversity conservation across the world. Our COP15 conference was themed on “Ecological Civilization — Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth”, which is different from the past. Once when it comes to biodiversity, we think it is the protection of endangered species. In fact, the perspective that we should pay attention to the protection of endangered species and individual star species is a one-sided view. What we should protect is human habitat. There is also the usual practice: reserve-based protection. It is important that we delimit specific reserves and intensify efforts to protect them, which is much more correct than the protection of endangered species. But this is also far from enough, we should protect the entire human habitat. In these aspects, China’s actions and participation of the people are far in the forefront of the world. Taking COP15 as the example, 450,000 people in China watched the meeting online, hundreds of millions of people read related news online, and they want to understand, learn and pay attention to these problems. We should see that people’s participation is the starting point of the crucial change!
(The speech has not been verified by Dr. Zhou Jinfeng, and is for reference only. ）
Original Chinese article: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/hJQFaBDmV7cX7jiMnNbP_w
Translator/ Maggie Check/Samantha