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News 2020

Watch: COVID-19 and the environment

7 Jul 2020
Image: Gerd Altmann (Creative Commons)

COVID-19 has had a a significant impact on the environment. These impacts are being explored through a series of webinars hosted by the Environmental Research Institute. Prof. Gerry Killeen and Dr Eoin Lettice have contributed to the series.

Prof. Killeen is the new AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at the Environmental Research Institute and School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences.

In this webinar, Prof Killeen outlined important lessons that can be learned from the natural histories of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and common arboviruses, to inform ongoing containment of COVID-19 today and help prevent further pandemics in future. Taking COVID-19 as the current manifestation of what WHO refers to as Disease X, Prof Killeen then outlined how we need to respond to decisively Crush the Curve of this pandemic through the kind of genuine national unity and global solidarity emphasized by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. He then described the strategic environmental, ecological and human development issues which underpin accelerated emergence of novel emerging pathogens like COVID-19, and which demand far greater international cooperation to protect us against Disease Y and Disease Z in the future.

Dr Eoin Lettice is a Plant Science Lecturer and PI at the Environmental Research Institute and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

In his talk, Dr Lettice outlined how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed society, including how we view, value and utilise the natural world around us. The webinar examined the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent ‘lockdown’ on the natural world as well as examining the role of plants in building healthy and sustainable communities. Dr Lettice outlined the benefits of trees and other plants in our urban environments, through reference to his own research, and explored how E.O. Wilson's biophilia theory (i.e. that humans possess an innate "urge to affiliate with other forms of life"), means that we need to re-examine how we plan our cities and towns post COVID-19.

The webinar series also features talks by Dr Hannah Daly (School of Engineering and ERI) and Prof. John Wenger (School of Chemistry and ERI). These talks are available on the ERI website.

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

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