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Why and how land health can prevent a future global pandemic

January 2021 marked a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, with over two million people dead. Since the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged on the global stage in early 2020, an historical and unprecedented effort has been deployed to quell this global health crisis. As we settle into a new year with increased optimism following the successful development of vaccines against COVID-19, we are turning our sights toward the future, with critical policy questions in mind.

Why and how land health can prevent a future global pandemic
Shifting power for a gender-equitable land degradation-neutral world

Awareness that gender biases exist in land‐based activities has grown significantly. Yet, weak legal and social protections for women’s land use continue. This leads to women’s needs, realities and knowledge being overlooked. Although land supports humanity in many ways, progress remains slow in the global efforts to move towards a future where more balanced relations make it possible for women and men to interact with and care for land in equitable and non-hierarchical ways.

Shifting power for a gender-equitable land degradation-neutral world
Iceland counting on land to reach carbon neutrality by 2040

Iceland will reach carbon neutrality before the year 2040. This is the ambitious goal that my government set in September 2018 when it introduced a new climate action plan to get us there. We are taking actions that tackle the three major global environmental challenges – on biological diversity, climate change and desertification – simultaneously.

Iceland counting on land to reach carbon neutrality by 2040
Governments agree on measures to help migrants fleeing degrading lands

The plight of people migrating in the context of environmental degradation, climate change impacts and natural disasters and the potential governance responses to such challenges have received a lot of attention in recent years. Therefore, the finalization of the text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCN) in July 2018 represents an important milestone for many of the policymakers and practitioners working on environmental migration matters.

Governments agree on measures to help migrants fleeing degrading lands
Recurring droughts are clear and present dangers

Is climate change the force behind the mass migrations into Europe? Is the rising radicalization and extremist behavior emerging in places like Pakistan and the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa linked to drought or climate change in any way? These are legitimate questions. And, although we lack sufficient evidence now that is supported by robust data to make very firm claims, history offers some lessons, which suggest that we should prepare for the worst now, and hope that the future reality will prove us wrong

Recurring droughts are clear and present dangers