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Dear Humankind: A letter from COVID-19

Dear Humankind,
 
Thank you for being such a superhost!
 
I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to jump to a species as abundant as you.
 
Most viruses only get to know their original host animal, like a bat or a bird or, yes, even a pangolin. Many of us exist only in the humid understory of a remote rainforest. We viruses are kept in check by healthy environments, with diverse and abundant wildlife.
 
But when you rip forests apart, you push our hosts—and us—closer to you. When you capture billions of animals to feed your insatiable appetite for flesh and false cures, you bring viruses like me out of natural quarantines and introduce us to new hosts. Like you.
 
A superhost of eight billion individuals and counting. A walking, flying, swimming, human meat market. Wow. Pinch me!
 
You make up a third of all mammals on Earth by weight.
 
The animals you grow unnecessarily to feed yourselves outweigh all the wild mammals and birds on the planet. Your cows and pigs also help us jump from our wildlife hosts to you. Remember swine flu?
 
As you drive our natural wildlife hosts to extinction, you throw us life rafts bigger than the Titanic. That life raft is you.
 
Why wouldn’t I jump?
 
I know hundreds of thousands of viruses like me just waiting for their chance to jump to the ultimate superhost.
 
If this sickness in your bodies opens your eyes to the deeper sickness in our shared planet, you have an important decision to make. But my big question to you is this:
 
Am I enough?
 
If apocalyptic fires aren’t enough. If vanishing glaciers aren’t enough. If drought and superhurricanes aren’t enough. Is the cold shadow I cast across the lives of you and your loved ones enough for you to finally confront the prospect of your own extinction?
If I have opened your eyes to anything, let it be how intimately connected we all are. Because only you, humankind, can choose to be the cure to the deeper sickness.
 
So reforest empty hillsides. Bring the chorus of birds and monkeys back to silent rainforests. Nurture the ancient oceans, woodlands and grasslands that nurture you. And commit to putting an end to the commercial trade of wild animals.
 
Now, as the Earth stops to take a collective deep breath, you have a rare opportunity to reimagine and redefine your place in the world, and to restore the natural balance. 
 
Any future without us invading your lives—shuttering your doors and your businesses and your economies and your governments and overwhelming your hospitals—is a future without species going extinct, without the destruction of forests, without plastic choking our oceans, without carbon choking our atmosphere, without the commercial hunting and poaching of wild animals. 
 
Only nature can save you, but you must first save nature by rewilding yourselves, and rewilding the world.
 
So tell me. What future do you choose?
 
It’s time to live it. Otherwise we’re going to live it for you.
 
Yours, 
 
COVID-19
 
(Originally published on GLOBAL WILDLIFE CONSERVATION)
 

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