Preventing pandemics, global warming and environmental degradation all at once

TOPSHOT - In this aerial view the red dust of the BR230 highway, known as "Transamazonica", mixes with fires at sunset in the agriculture town of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on September 6, 2019. - Presidents and ministers from seven Amazon countries met in Colombia on Friday to agree on  measures to protect the world's biggest rainforest, under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. The summit took place in the wake of an international outcry over months of raging fires that have devastated swaths of the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia. (Photo by Johannes MYBURGH / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES MYBURGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Lauren E. Oakes is a Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University in the Department of Earth System Science, and the author of "In Search of the Canary Tree." Sarah H. Olson is the Associate Director of epidemiology for the Wildlife Conservation Society Health Program. James Watson is the Director of the Science and Research Initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society and a professor of conservation science at the University of Queensland. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion at CNN.

(CNN)The Earth and its inhabitants face three global crises: the pandemic crisis, the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis. Unto themselves, each already feels overwhelming -- in terms of public-health consequences, the speed and scale of impacts, and the transformative actions needed to keep the planet habitable.

Lauren E. Oakes
Sarah Olson
James E. M. Watson
One commonality lies at the core of these massive global challenges: the destructive relationship between humanity and the natural world. Human activities drive these invisible enemies, and our hope for the future will derive from solutions based on caring for nature.
With Covid-19-related mortality expected to be high in vulnerable populations, at least one expert, NYU climate economist Gernot Wagner, has likened the pandemic to "climate change at warp speed." The exponential growth rate of Covid-19 makes the pandemic far more apparent to most people, on a daily basis, than a warming planet. Yet the devastating recent fires in Australia and the loss of Pacific islands to sea-level rise remove any doubt that climate change is a fast-moving crisis.
We already know the links between climate change and the third crisis, biodiversity loss. A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services outlined the consequences for humanity of the rampant erosion of ecosystems across Earth.