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2020 in review: A pandemic infected millions. Nature can help prevent another one

© Pete Oxford/iLCP

Nature saw its ups and downs in 2020, and Conservation News was there for it all. This month, we are revisiting some of the most interesting and significant stories and issues we covered in the past year. 

No other event dominated news headlines more this year than the COVID-19 pandemic, with 68 million cases and counting

Many of our most-read stories in 2020 documented the impacts of the coronavirus on nature — and explored why protecting nature could be critical to preventing the next pandemic.  

Believed to have originated at a wild animal and fish market in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has shined a spotlight on the connection between nature and human health. In one of our most-read stories of all time, Conservation News shared five articles that explore this link.

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A study published in June laid out a groundbreaking plan to decrease the risk of future pandemics by 27 percent or more — at a fraction of the cost of current COVID-19 response efforts. How? By protecting nature. Conservation News spoke to three of the study’s co-authors — Conservation International scientists Lee Hannah, Jorge Ahumada and Patrick Roehrdanz — about why nature holds the key to preventing the next pandemic. 

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As havens for wildlife, the world’s protected areas are a line of defense against outbreaks of zoonotic diseases — yet the pandemic is putting their future at risk, a recent study found. Conservation International’s Rachel Golden Kroner, a co-author of the study, explains how the pandemic could be used as a cover to remove environmental protections. 

Read more here and here

Poaching and deforestation in the tropics have increased since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect around the world, according to reports earlier this year from Conservation International field offices. Evidence suggests that the majority of these activities were enabled by weakened enforcement efforts that people exploited — some driven by desperation, others by profit.  

To determine how to help the global economy recover in the wake of the pandemic, a group of climate experts and economists looked to the past, analyzing more than 700 economic stimulus plans during or following the 2008 financial crisis. What they discovered: Green policies such as those that support renewable energy and energy efficiency resulted in greater immediate economic benefits and higher long-term savings compared with traditional stimulus packages.

Read more here


Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Cover image: Amaila Falls on the Kuribrong River, Guyana (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

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