GRETA THUNBERG has backed warnings from a leading Irish epidemiologist that humanity is “writing cheques that we cannot cash as a civilisation.”
Dr Mike Ryan specialises in infectious disease and public health.
He is the executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme and leads the team responsible for the international containment and treatment of COVID-19.
Speaking at an online ceremony during which he received the Romero award from Trócaire for outstanding contributions to global justice, Dr Ryan warned that nature and populations are being pushed to breaking limits in the pursuit of economic growth.
He urged humanity to seek a more sustainable way of growing, having seen the development of a “malignancy” Dr Ryan believes has helped foster the perfect conditions for an epidemic to flourish in.
“We’re pushing nature to its limit, we’re pushing populations and communities to their limit. We’re stressing the environment and we’re stressing populations and communities.
“We’re creating the conditions in which epidemics flourish, we’re forcing and pushing people to migrate away from their homes due to climate stress. We’re doing so much and we are doing it in the name of globalisation and some sense of chasing that wonderful thing that people call economic growth.
“Well, in my view, that’s becoming a malignancy, not growth, because what it’s doing is driving unsustainable practises in terms of how we manage communities and how we manage development, how we manage prosperity,” Dr Ryan added.
Dr Ryan has witnessed, first hand, how epidemics can play out and used his speech to repeat his calls for more efforts to be made to create a sustainable world “where slavery to economic growth is taken out of the equation”.
“We’re writing cheques that we cannot cash as a civilisation for the future, and they’re going to bounce,” he added.
Dr Ryan echoed many of the concerns regularly voiced by activists like Thunberg, who have expressed dismay at the short-term thinking of many leading nations when it came to addressing issues like climate change.
He said: “My fear is that our children are going to pay that price. Someday when we’re not here, our children are going to wake up and there’s a pandemic with a higher case fatality rate, and it could bring our civilisation to its very knees.”
Having seen the effects and impacts of migration of populations and the emergence of infectious diseases, Dr Ryan urged society as a whole to seek more sustainable methods to their everyday life.
“We need a world that’s more sustainable, where profit is not before communities. Where the slavery to economic growth is taken out of the equation.” he said.
“We need sustainable growth for our communities and sustainable livelihoods for our people.”
“We are taking huge risks, and I mean massive risks, with our future...we’re being extremely irresponsible right now.”
”We are pushing nature to its limits. /…/ We are creating conditions in which epidemics flourish” - Dr Mike Ryan from WHO telling it like it is.
This is exactly the clarity we need from world leaders in order to bring real hope to the world. #FaceTheClimateEmergency https://t.co/EkWDkWmidN
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 20, 2021
Dr Ryan’s warnings struck a chord with Thunberg, who shared footage from his speech with her followers on social media.
She praised him for “telling it like it is”.
“This is exactly the clarity we need from world leaders in order to bring real hope to the world,” the teenager added.
She signed off her tweet with a call for world leaders to face the climate emergency before it is too late.