Ground Truth Briefing | Unpacking COVID-19 and the Connections Between Ecosystem, Animal, and Human Health and Security

Event Date: 
April 20, 2020

COVID-19 has brought into stark reality the deep connections between wildlife, the environment, public health, and human security. And yet, despite the fact that much of the global population has been left stunned by the swift-moving and devastating pandemic, to some, what we are experiencing today comes as little surprise. In fact, experts have been trying to sound the alarm for decades. As recently as a few years ago, epidemiologists at the World Health Organization coined the term “Disease X” as a descriptor for a COVID-19-like pandemic. In 2008, the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025 Report included an eerily similar description of how a pandemic would likely start. Experts in these communities know that the threats posed by animal-borne infectious diseases to global health, security, and economic well-being are accelerating. Approximately 70 percent of these diseases originate with the wildlife trade, but increasingly, these zoonotic diseases are linked to environmental change, human behavior, and demographic changes, like rapid urbanization and population growth.

Understanding the underlying risks that created the conditions for COVID-19 to emerge, and the failures of public health, governance, and social systems to prevent and properly mitigate the spread of the virus, is critical to both addressing the current crisis and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. Please join the Wilson Center in a phone conversation with experts who have been tracking the connections between animal, ecosystem, human health, and security, and what steps policymakers need to take to mitigate the next global pandemic.

When: April 20, 2020, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET


  • Lauren Herzer Risi, Project Director, Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center


  • Ellen P. Carlin, Assistant Research Professor, Center for Global Health Science and Security, Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Director, Graduate Program in Global Infectious Disease, Georgetown University
  • Sharon Guynup, Global Fellow, former Public Policy Fellow, environmental journalist and author; Contributor, The New York Times, National Geographic and other outlets; and SEJ member
  • Rod Schoonover, Founder and CEO, Ecological Futures Group; former Director of Environment and Natural Resources, National Intelligence Council

Information and registration instructions.

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