Leaders of the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International have said that pandemics, such as coronavirus, are due to humanity’s destruction of nature, adding that the world is ignoring this bitter truth for decades.

The leaders told the Guardian that the illegal trade of wildlife, deforestation, and devastation of other wild places are responsible for the increasing number of infectious diseases that are getting transmitted from animals to humans.

The leaders included Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, UN’s Acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Maria Neira, the WHO’s director for environment and health; Marco Lambertini, head of WWF International.

They said it is important to reform destructive farming and unsustainable diets for a green and healthy recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, a WWF report warned, “The risk of a new [wildlife-to-human] disease emerging in the future is higher than ever, with the potential to wreak havoc on health, economies and global security.

Earlier this month, the UN environment chief said COVID-19 was an “SOS signal for the human enterprise” and that “current economic thinking did not recognize that human wealth depends on nature’s health.”

The leaders said, “We have seen many diseases emerge over the years, such as Zika, AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and they all originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures.”

“With coronavirus, these outbreaks are manifestations of our dangerously unbalanced relationship with nature,” they added. “They all illustrate that our own destructive behavior towards nature is endangering our own health – a stark reality we’ve been collectively ignoring for decades.”

They went on to say, “Worryingly, while COVID-19 has given us yet another reason to protect and preserve nature, we have seen the reverse take place.”

“From the Greater Mekong, to the Amazon and Madagascar, alarming reports have emerged of increased poaching, illegal logging, and forest fires, while many countries are engaging in hasty environmental rollbacks and cuts in funding for conservation. This all comes at a time when we need it most.”

“We must embrace a just, healthy, and green recovery and kickstart a wider transformation towards a model that values nature as the foundation for a healthy society. Not doing so, and instead of attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, health systems, and social safety nets, has already proven to be a false economy. The bill will be paid many times over.”

The WWF report concluded that the key drivers for infectious diseases that transmit from wild animals to humans are the destruction of nature, trading, and consumption of high-risk wild animals, the intensification of agriculture, and livestock production.

The report has urged all nations to introduce and enforce laws to stop the destruction of nature.

The WWF report mentioned that 60 to 70 percent of the new diseases that have emerged in humans since 1990 came from wildlife. And the same time, nearly 180m hectares of forest have been destroyed. The original article appeared in The Guardian.