OPINION

Nobel Laureate on COVID-19 & Environmental Protection: Pandemic is Here Because We Destroyed Forests

Nobel laureate Riccardo Valentini has shared his thoughts with Sputnik on COVID-19, lockdowns, food security, and environmental protection.

As COVID-19 continues to ripple through the world, it seems the places we live in will never be the same. So, what is the pandemic’s impact on humanity and the environment? Nobel laureate Riccardo Valentini explains. 

Sputnik: Last year, at the height of the pandemic in Italy, you compared it to the Spanish flu. Now, in 2021, we are closer to uncovering the causes of the pandemic to some degree, if the virus jumped to humans from bats and wild animals. What lessons do we have to learn in terms of environmental protection?

Riccardo Valentini: Yes, I think this is really a good example to show how our relationship with nature has changed so much in the last 50 years. Humans are everywhere. We have taken 73 percent of the land for our use, globally. These, of course, are the expenses of natural systems. And when we get in contact with the natural system, of course, we also get what is dangerous for us. And this is very important because the pandemic is not caused by some particular chance. It’s just because we have destroyed the forests, tropical forests, and other ecosystems. Our agricultural activities come into contact with the natural ecosystem. So, this is why the exchange of genes is so easy. And so we have to think, rethink about this.

Sputnik: The pandemic has hit hard the regions that had shortages of food such as South Africa, both poor black and white neighbourhoods suffered. What is the situation like around the world now when it comes to food? What are the places that need improvements to the agriculture and food industry the most?

Riccardo Valentini: Yes, the question about food is very important, because in the south, let’s say the tropical regions, they are the most affected by the greatest increase of population demography. They need more food, but they don’t have basically any land where to grow the food unless they cut the forests. So, these open bequests are on us as we should work as humanity. You know, on the food problem, food is not only business. It’s also a humanitarian question. And for example, I see a lot of potential for the Russian Federation because the land in Russia is huge and the conversion to agriculture is easier. There are also new technologies now, and it’s very dynamic – the agricultural system in Russia – and can feed the world.

Sputnik: Last question. Italian farmers and restaurant owners are under a lot of pressure because of the pandemic and lockdowns. These industries, especially small enterprises, have been dependent on tourists and the hospitality industry. Do you see a way out for these businesses now, or are we currently losing Italy’s famous wines and delicacies because of lockdowns and the pandemic?

Riccardo Valentini: The situation now is much better in Italy. And I have to say that the big game-changer was vaccinations and people starting to vaccinate. And now we have 80 percent of the people over 70 years old that are vaccinated. And in the last few weeks, we are seeing a dramatic decrease in infections and deaths. So, we are now something like 70, 80 deaths per day. And models are showing that in June they will be zero, basically. So, we won. I mean, maybe, it is hard to say now, but we wait another month. But I think we can say that we won against the virus. And vaccination was absolutely, very, very important for us. So, at this moment, the restaurants are reopening, restaurants are reopening, hotels are reopening, the beaches. I really look forward to us having a great tourist season and we count a lot on Russian tourists as well. So, I hope that the bureaucracy and the permissions, the visas will be sped up also for Russians.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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