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  • This graph can tell you a lot about your future.

  • Each bar shows how many new infectious diseases

  • emerged in a year.

  • In 1944, there was one.

  • In '48, three.

  • We have no immunity to new pathogens.

  • Each disease on this list posed a new pandemic threat.

  • It was around 1960 when the number began to rise.

  • By the time 1990 rolled around,

  • it wasn't just two or three new diseases that year

  • there were 18.

  • Soon after, the trend became so clear,

  • a scientist appeared on TV with a warning.

  • What worries me the most is that we're

  • going to miss the next emerging disease,

  • that we're going to suddenly find a SARS virus that

  • moves from one part of the planet to another,

  • wiping out people as it moves along.”

  • That was 17 years ago.

  • And today, stuck at home in a seemingly never-ending

  • pandemic purgatory, it appears that we did not

  • heed his warning.

  • Covid-19 has opened our eyes to the danger.

  • But has it opened them enough to look past this pandemic

  • to what our future holds?

  • We tracked down that same scientist today

  • to ask him: How do you stop the next pandemic?

  • He said the trend isn't looking good.

  • We see an increased frequency of emerging pandemics.

  • We also still have the ones that emerged recently.

  • We still have H.I.V.

  • We still have Ebola.

  • We still have H1N1.

  • So we're adding to the stock of known pandemic pathogens

  • with new ones at an increasing rate.

  • That's not a good place for us as a species right now.”

  • If you want to know how to stop the next pandemic,

  • you first need to know why they're happening.

  • We humans are an ecological anomaly.

  • There have never been 7.7 billion large-body

  • vertebrates of one species on this planet

  • before in the history of earth.”

  • This is David Quammen.

  • He's a —

  • “— a very unmystical, black-hole Darwinian materialist.”

  • Well, David's a storyteller.

  • He's been writing about the origin of infectious diseases

  • for decades.

  • So we are unprecedented, and we're

  • causing ecological wreckage that's unprecedented,

  • and there are consequences of that.”

  • [explosions]

  • Pandemics emerge due to our ecological footprint.

  • And our cultural footprint is accelerating exponentially.”

  • Remember this guy?

  • That's Peter Daszak, the scientist who warned us in 2003.

  • He's sometimes referred to as a virus hunter.

  • He goes out to preemptively find viruses

  • before they find us.

  • It's the connection between humans and animals

  • that's driving this.

  • And that connection happens where

  • people move into a new region through things

  • like road building and deforestation, mining,

  • palm oil production, timber and livestock production.

  • People move into new areas.

  • They come across wildlife that we've not really

  • had much contact with.

  • The pathogens spill over into them, and then

  • can spread through that connectivity.”

  • [birds squawking]

  • We're encroaching on their habitats.

  • And just many, many more opportunities for spillover

  • events to occur.”

  • Christian Walzer is a global veterinarian

  • and executive director for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

  • The destruction happening at the edge of forests

  • is one of the areas where we're very concerned.

  • Changing the trees that bats, for example, would roost on,

  • they may be driven to an edge.

  • They may be driven into an area where there's

  • more human population.

  • And suddenly, you create a contact area

  • which didn't exist before.”

  • So what do these new contact areas look like?

  • In this video, we're going to show you

  • three ways in which our changing

  • relationship with wildlife is increasingly

  • creating dangerous pandemic possibilities.

  • So let's say you want to sell toothpaste.

  • No, peanut butter.

  • Wait, wait shampoo.

  • Never mind, it doesn't matter.

  • In all of those cases, you need palm oil.

  • So you burn down a forest in Malaysia to grow palm trees.

  • But that forest was home to some bats.

  • So the bats find a new home, near some fruit trees

  • on a pig farm.

  • But soon, a virus from those bats

  • makes its way into the farmers who own the property.

  • This isn't science fiction.

  • This is how the Nipah virus came to humans.

  • Why was it getting from the fruit bats to the people?

  • Because of habitat destruction.

  • Most of the forest in northern Malaysia,

  • where the bats would ordinarily

  • be living wild and feeding on wild fruit, most

  • of that forest had been destroyed.

  • In place of the forest, among other human enterprises,

  • were giant pig farms, piggeries,

  • where thousands of pigs were kept in a single corral,

  • being raised for meat.

  • Some of those corrals were shaded by domestic fruit

  • trees that were planted to grow mangoes

  • or to grow starfruit for another revenue

  • stream for these pig farms.

  • So the bats, having lost their wild habitat,

  • are attracted to the domestic fruit trees.

  • They come in, they eat the mango,

  • they eat the starfruit, they drop the pulp

  • into the pig corrals.

  • And with it, they drop their feces and their urine

  • and their virus.

  • It gets into the pigs, spreads through the pigs,

  • then gets in the pig farmers, pork sellers,

  • and other people.”

  • Land use change is one big reason

  • more infectious diseases are making their way into humans.

  • However, it's not just animal habitat

  • we need to worry about.

  • Animal diversity can be just as important.

  • Loss of biodiversity itself has

  • led to emergence of disease.

  • When you lose species, you tend

  • to be left with certain groups.

  • And if they happen to carry viruses,

  • and if they dominate the landscape,

  • you will be exposed to those viruses more than others.”

  • This story doesn't begin in the jungles of Africa

  • or forests of Southeast Asia.

  • We begin in the American suburbs.

  • If humans cut down the forest and turn it into a suburb,

  • like those beautiful suburbs we

  • know in semi-rural Connecticut,

  • where there are great big lawns in front

  • of nice houses, and there are hedges,

  • and then there's somebody else's house

  • with a great big lawn in front of it,

  • that's really good habitat for white-footed mice,

  • and also for white-tailed deer.

  • Not so good for larger mammals,

  • like foxes, like weasels, or for birds of prey.

  • So the hawks and the owls tend to disappear,

  • the foxes and the weasels tend to disappear

  • from this environment.

  • What happens then?

  • You get more white-footed mice.

  • You get an abundance of white-footed mice

  • because their predators are not suppressing them.”

  • Having an abundance of white-footed mice

  • wouldn't be so bad, except they

  • are the natural reservoir host of Lyme disease.

  • This means they harbor the bacteria,

  • but it doesn't make them sick.

  • So if there was a biological diverse landscape, well,

  • then

  • The pathogen is shared amongst the various hosts

  • that are in that landscape.

  • Many of these hosts are incompetent

  • and are unable to actually transmit the disease.

  • And so it becomes a dilution effect.”

  • The net result of this reduction

  • in biological diversity, changing the landscape,

  • making it more fragmented, less forested,

  • is more ticks infecting more little kids

  • when they go out to roll around in the grass and bust

  • through the hedges.

  • So there is more Lyme disease.”

  • And yet, Covid-19 may not have started this way at all.

  • In view of the ongoing outbreak,

  • if you create a completely artificial interface where

  • you go and capture animals regionally, globally,

  • and bring them together at one place,

  • like at a wildlife trading market,

  • then you're obviously creating fantastic opportunities

  • for viruses to spill over.”

  • A pathogen from an animal might not

  • be able to spill over directly into humans,

  • but it could spill over into another animal,

  • evolve or adapt, and then infect humans.

  • With a rotating variety of animals stacked

  • on top of each other, the pandemic possibilities

  • are significant.

  • This is one theory of how the coronavirus may

  • have started in China.

  • The thing is, in the past, a spillover event from this

  • wildlife market may not have affected you.

  • We also have to take one step back from the sort of very

  • romantic idea that these are isolated communities living

  • in central Africa.

  • You know, I always point out that a rat which you capture

  • somewhere in northern Congo now, within 12 hours,

  • you're in Brazzaville.”

  • The Republic of the Congo now has a new modern highway

  • and economic artery thanks to Chinese assistance.”

  • See, just 10 years ago, that would have been impossible.

  • But then, well, China

  • The national highway was complete —”

  • China wanted access to minerals to mine.

  • In exchange, they helped with infrastructure.

  • Now, there's a road.

  • They've created accessways, not only

  • for the rare earths which are so

  • important for your mobile phone,

  • but for viruses as well.

  • If you catch the plane that evening

  • and you take your rat with you because you want to bring it

  • to your family in Paris, it's less than 24 hours

  • from a very, very remote community

  • all the way to Paris.”

  • But luggage is screened, you say.

  • The rat would get caught.

  • Maybe.

  • But really, the rat isn't the biggest threat.

  • It's you.

  • Your bag gets screened.

  • Your blood does not.

  • We all have a share of the responsibility.

  • It's not just people in China who want to eat bats

  • or who want to eat pangolins.

  • That may be the immediate cause of this spillover,

  • but in terms of the initiation of these things,

  • generally, there is also enough blame, enough responsibility

  • to go around.”

  • The three ways in which a pandemic

  • could start shown in this video all

  • have one thing in common

  • us.

  • Here's what we did.

  • We changed the planet so significantly and so

  • fundamentally that we dominate every ecosystem on earth,

  • right now.

  • We are the dominant vertebrate species.

  • Our livestock are the dominant biomass on the planet.

  • And that's the issue.

  • What we've done is we've created this pathway

  • through our consumption habits by which

  • viruses can get from wildlife into people

  • and then infect us.

  • And our response is we blame one country versus another,

  • we blame people who eat one species over people

  • who don't eat another and we blame nature.

  • Well, no.

  • We need to point the finger directly at ourselves.

  • This is not a whiny argument that the world's falling

  • apart and it's our fault, this is

  • an argument that says we are the reason why this happens.

  • We, therefore, have the power to change it.”

  • So how do you stop the next pandemic?

  • Well, this is what you do.