New Campaign Tells Big Business: Protect Forests to Prevent Pandemics

WASHINGTON, DC – Environmental organization Mighty Earth launched the latest phase of its campaign to protect tropical forests today with a new video calling on major corporations to protect forests to help prevent the next global pandemic.

“We are still in the grips of COVID-19, but there’s nothing that says we’ll only have to deal with one pandemic at a time. We should not wait for this storm to pass before we prepare for the next one,” said Sarah Lake, Mighty Earth VP and Global Director for Latin America. “COVID-19, like SARS, MERS, Ebola, and AIDS before it, likely emerged from the sort of human-wildlife interaction that deforestation fosters. Indeed, destruction of native ecosystems is the single greatest risk factor for new pandemics. The companies driving ecological destruction in tropical forests – like Cargill and JBS – must be held to account for their recklessness. And that means that the stores people trust, like Costco, need to stop doing business with them.”

Mighty Earth has released a video highlighting the link between forest destruction and zoonosis – the transmission of disease from animal hosts to human populations – and singled out multinational agribusiness giants as the biggest offenders.

“As Cargill and JBS bulldoze and incinerate these environments, this destruction of natural habitat causes mosquito populations to explode and forces bats and rodents to find new homes deeper into our communities, carrying with them potential new diseases and increasing the risk that these diseases will jump from animal to human,” the video’s narration says. ”This combination of human proximity and disease-carrying wildlife is the perfect Petri dish to breed dangerous new viruses and spread them across the globe.”

Mighty Earth has previously documented how these companies drive deforestation and fires in Latin America, accelerating the twin crises of climate change and mass extinction while trampling on the rights of Indigenous people and local communities.

“We have long known that these companies are behind the felled trees and choking smoke, and so have the supermarkets that continue to do business with them,” said Lake. “But in the past year, we’ve all come to understand just how dangerous it is to continue to destroy forests. We can’t risk another global pandemic. And as Dr. Monica Nirmala told us earlier this year, healthy forests just might be humanity’s best antivirus.”

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