Most people know that deforestation raises CO2 in our atmosphere. But, it also causes viruses to enter humans and spread rapidly.
Animals such as bats carry viruses. Many of these viruses have been present in rainforest animals for many years but have remained deep in the forest away from human populations.
Nowadays, many rainforests are being destroyed en masse – especially in Borneo for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is now used in many of our food and beauty products – in other words, we are ingesting and spreading products on our skin that could potentially carry viruses previously unknown to human populations.
In the past 40 years, more than a third of the Borneo rain forest has been destroyed. About half of that land has turned into palm oil plantations…
Right now, only 15 percent of the world’s rain forests is still intact. The rest has been burned flat. Broken into pieces. Or converted into farms, ranges for cattle, metal mines — even shopping malls.
“It’s soybeans in the Amazon. It’s suburban development in the U.S. Every part of this planet has been modified by people in some way,” Olival says. “We’re changing the environment in ways that are really unprecedented in human history.”
Wild animals are now refugees. They have no home. So they come live in our backyards. They pee on our crops. Share our parks and playgrounds. Giving their viruses a chance to jump into us and make us sick.
“So it’s really the human impact on the environment that’s causing these viruses to jump into people,” Olival says.