What Can You Do To Help?
There are more than 1.5 million unknown viruses in the world. Seventy-five percent of emerging diseases affecting humans are zoonotic in origin. Many of these diseases have mortality rates as high as 70, 80, or even 90 percent.
At EcoHealth Alliance, we know that these numbers are staggering, that their implications can be panic-inducing and overwhelming. So what can you do? How can you help?
We like to say that there are three basic ways of helping: educate, advocate, and activate. Every action, no matter how big or small, helps.
EcoHealth Alliance trains scientists all around the globe (Photo: EcoHealth Alliance)
When it comes to the large issue of pandemic prevention, there are many tiers and each is complicated in its own way.
Deforestation and land-use change drive pathogen spread. But so does human behavior, like wildlife trade and hunting. There are also economic issues at play in many of these scenarios. For instance, the palm oil industry is a major driver of deforestation globally, but it is also a major source of income for many around the globe. To eradicate it entirely would be to erase many people’s livelihoods. As for hunting and eating of wildlife, it is not an uncommon practice in many places to eat the meat of found wild animal carcasses. That practice is in no way safe–in fact it’s likely how HIV first entered a human’s bloodstream–though many engaging in this practice do not have the resources or the opportunity to purchase and consume food prepared in a safer manner.
It would be nearly impossible for the average person to become an expert in each of the ways that pandemics can begin, and then to study the many nuances associated with each. Pick the one that moves you the most. Learn about it. No one person can fix every problem, but a lot of people working passionately to tackle individual problems can certainly get a lot done.
EcoHealth Alliance scientists test samples from wildlife for pathogens (Photo: EcoHealth Alliance)
Once you’ve identified something you truly care about, be an advocate for it. Tell your friends, explain to them why it’s such a big issue. Odds are if it moved you, it will move them as well.
You can extend advocacy outside your own circle as well. Tools like Democracy.io have made it easier than ever to contact your elected officials. Write to them and state your case. Bear in mind that progress on the conservation front often happens locally first. States like New York, California, and Oregon have passed laws restricting the ivory trade which are far more strict than the law at the federal level. Other laws aimed at conservation like bans on plastic bags and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are most often passed at the city level. Get involved. Go to city council meetings. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you care about. Passion is contagious.
EcoHealth Alliance thanks you for your support (Photo: EcoHealth Alliance)
Find organizations doing work you respect and help them take that work even further. There are ways to assist beyond a simple donation. These days there are a good many tools out there to help you activate things you're already doing for a good cause.
Amazon Smile, for one, is a good way to help a little this holiday season. Amazon Smile works just like Amazon, except that a charity of your choice will receive a donation of 0.5 percent of your purchase. All at once, you can get a gift for a loved one and help out a charity you love.
Facebook, too, now makes it possible to donate your birthday to a charity. Rather than buying you gifts, friends and family can make a donation in your name to the charity of your choice. It costs you nothing and makes you feel great.
It can be a scary world and sometimes it’s hard to know how to make it a better one. The key, though, is not to focus on how you can’t make an impact on everything but how you can make an impact on something.