Tang Prize winner calls for action in sustainable development

09/21/2020 10:33 PM
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Video conference at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu City on Monday
Video conference at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu City on Monday

Taipei, Sept. 21 (CNA) Jane Goodall, the laureate of the 2020 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, on Monday called for action to achieve a sustainable future for all, including respecting animals, mitigating climate change and controlling human population.

"We're going through pretty dark times right now, socially, politically and environmentally. We're in the midst of the sixth great extinction of plant and animal life," warned Goodall, a British primatologist, at the 2020 Tang Prize Master's Forum.

Goodall was named this year's Tang Prize winner for Sustainable Development in June, for her discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools and for her dedication to wildlife protection and environmental conservation.

Speaking via video conference, Goodall lamented that the current COVID-19 pandemic was a result of humans disrespecting mother nature and other animal species.

She cited the destruction of forests by human as one example, in which animal species are forced into close contact with humans, creating a situation where a pathogen can jump from animals to humans.

"In fact, most new diseases afflicting human beings actually originate in animals," Goodall said, adding that as people move deeper into the forest to hunt animals and traffic them in wildlife markets, they create opportunities for a zoonotic disease.

She cited acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) as other examples of infections with such origins.

At the same time, these outbreaks or pandemics make the United Nations Millennium Development Goals even harder to achieve, because their effects are more profound on poor people, she said.

Goodall reminded her audience that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the planet is facing a much more serious and threatening problem -- the climate crisis.

"And it's the same disrespect of the natural world that has led to the climate crisis," she said, urging governments to act with the same urgency they have shown in handling COVID-19.

Goodall stressed the importance of alleviating poverty in fighting climate change as poor people are more inclined to cut down the last trees or catch the last fish to feed their family because they can't afford to ask whether their actions harm the environment.

She also raised the idea of "voluntary population optimization control" as the world population is forecast to grow to 9.7 billion in 2050, putting more pressure on finite natural resources.

"We haven't been just compromising our children's future, we have been stealing it. Will we continue to steal it?" she asked, urging everybody to do their part to slow down climate change and reduce the possibility of more pandemics.

(By Emerson Lim)

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