President's View: Two Crises, One United Purpose

By standing together for wildlife and wild places, we’ll ensure the continued well-being of our natural world—and ourselves—for generations to come.

  • Collin O’Mara, President & Chief Executive Officer of the National Wildlife Federation
  • Conservation
  • Jun 01, 2020

Bats await purchase at a market in Laos. Many such markets sell wild and domestic animals for food or traditional medicine. Yet some species can be vectors for disease, including the virus causing COVID-19.

WE WE BEGAN planning this issue of the magazine last year, we chose to focus on the global biodiversity crisis, which is putting an estimated 1 million species at heightened risk of extinction in the coming decades. Today, people around the globe are sheltering in place to battle the spread of COVID-19, a public health pandemic. These two crises have a palpable link—and both affirm my unwavering belief that when we save wildlife, we save ourselves.

The pandemic has shown us how truly interconnected human life and wildlife conservation are around the globe. Epidemiologists believe the crisis started when a novel coronavirus made the leap from a wild animal (likely a bat) to humans, possibly through another wildlife species being sold for food at a market in Wuhan, China—a painful reminder of how much more work we must do to stop wildlife trafficking and trade.

As is true for people around the globe, this has been a difficult time for the National Wildlife Federation family and our supporters. We’ve lost loved ones and face a more uncertain economic future. But the past few months have also underscored the importance of conserving wildlife and our natural world. I have been moved and gratified to see all of our devoted staff, affiliate partners, members and supporters banding together from remote locations to ensure that we emerge from this crisis safely and with a stronger sense of why our work matters.

We’ve heard from folks across the country about how they’ve found solace outdoors and are learning about nature during this prolonged period of social isolation. Whether it’s venturing out on a hiking trail, in a backyard garden or on a neighborhood stoop, millions of Americans are finding safe ways to experience the outdoors and enjoy the wonderful wildlife around us.

Throughout this stressful time, our Federation has continued to work tirelessly for wildlife. And we’re working with governments to address the cultural and economic drivers behind illegal wildlife trade and habitat destruction, which contribute to risky interactions between humans and wildlife and expose people to possible zoonotic diseases.

The current public health crisis demonstrates the intimate connection between people and Earth’s declining biodiversity. By standing together for wildlife and wild places, we’ll ensure the continued well-being of our natural world—and ourselves—for generations to come.

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More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

The National Wildlife Federation Helping Families through the COVID-19 Outbreak »
NWF: Our Work »
Read Last Issue's President's View »

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