Illegal Wildlife Trade Intersects with Homeschooling ll By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

People sense that when this global covid-19 pandemic abates we won’t be returning to normal—normal’s what got us here. No longer will a sneeze or cough in public be only background noise. We will move to dodge those droplets. What will your new normal look like? 

The world has given us so many signs that we must stop only taking from the earth and treasure her for the sake of our future. Femke den Haas, Co-Founder Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Wildlife Watch Dogs

Start with interconnectedness as an underlying ethic. As you go about your day, make that part of your brain’s background music and decision-making process. Interconnectedness says that if you tweak one part of a system, it reverberates throughout, making adjustments and changes to the system.

“Scientists believe that about 75 percent of the newly emerging infectious diseases, such as covid-19, HIV/AIDS, SARS, avian influenza, and swine flu [H1N1], started in wildlife animals,” said Natalie Stewart, co-founder of Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Wildlife Watch Dogs (1, 2).

It appears that humans are primarily responsible for this emergence through our socio-economic, environmental and ecological practices (3). Wild animals have always carried viruses, but there used to be little contact between humans and these animals. Indonesia, for example, has about 34,000 miles of coastline, and fishing was a primary means of providing food and income for its populace, 25 million of which live in poverty. Not so anymore, as industrialized fishing, a burgeoning Indonesian and world population that needs fed, and polluted oceans and freshwater supplies have negatively impacted a villager’s daily catch who’s only trying to feed his family.  

This forces more people into the jungles and forests and into increased contact with wild animals, where they are harvested, brought into city markets, cruelly packed into cages or containers and sold and slaughtered in close proximity to each other and to the humans handling them in these markets—a perfect environment for disease emergence amongst virus-laden animals and disease crossover into humans. These jungle excursions feed both the local population and provide an income to these villagers for export. Countries throughout Asia and Africa supply animals to the illegal wildlife trade, the value of which ranges up to $23 billion annually.

We’ve got to get away from this consumerism, materialism that puts economic development ahead of environmental protection, which is damaging the future generations of humans and animals. Jane Goodall

“The destructive behavior of people worldwide and governments not paying enough attention to deforestation, wet markets, illegal wildlife trade, and the dangerous dog and cat meat trade will continue to cause more catastrophes,” Ms. Stewart added.

Some of you might think, well, let’s kill off the wild animals then to keep humanity safe—the height of hubris. With the Enlightenment came many significant thinkers who believed that humans could use science and technology to bend nature to the will of humanity.  René Descartes, a mathematician of the seventeenth century, wrote that with science, “we can . . . render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature.”

But nature fights back against reductionist thinking—we’re interconnected. Remember ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas—it’s impossible to eliminate them and the diseases they carry harmful to humans. We need to coexist with nature: reduce our consumption habits and their accompanying destructive, life-destroying pollution. Our population growth is unsustainable—another reason for our emerging infectious diseases. Animals and humans crowd into the same spaces, resulting in increased contact and greater risk.

And it isn’t as if we humans then stay put. We carry these infections with us on planes and in cars and then plant them in the fertile ground of our swelling megacities. 

And thus end up homeschooling our children.

What can you do?

Nature writer and environmental activist Terryl Warnock says this is a time to “reclaim our food from the predatory megacorps” (4). That means we eat locally grown food, support our local industries, and support sustainable agricultural practices. Benefits include reducing our carbon footprint by decreasing pollution from transporting our food from long distances while working to break up these predatory food industries. We lobby our state legislators for laws that protect our environment and support our communities.

JAAN co-founders Ms. Stewart, Ms. den Haas, and Karin Franken have been fighting for animal rights for more than ten years. I was living in Jakarta and friends of theirs at the inception of JAAN. JAAN has worked tirelessly on behalf of Indonesia’s animal kingdom, including birds of prey, sharks, monkeys, orangutans, horses, dogs, and cats. One way to change our normal is to donate to JAAN online at or other groups you’re affiliated with.

As I mentioned, focus your thoughts, beliefs, and actions on our planet’s interconnectedness and see where that leads you. Discover where your food comes from. Join community groups that actively support and encourage one another to promote environmental rights. 

There’s no returning to our former normal. What ethics and morals will guide your behavior and actions as we as a planetary society move forward? What will you do to create a healthier planet?

Notes & Sources: 

  1. Email correspondence, April 20, 2020.
  3. Generally speaking, environmental science is a broader field that incorporates many elements of earth and life sciences, whereas ecology is usually more focused on how organisms interact with each other and their surroundings, and often on a very specific population of living things. The term socioeconomic refers to the interaction between the social and economic habits of a group of people. The word economic refers to the economy, such as people’s income and finances. Socioeconomic links financial and social issues together.
  4. Email correspondence, April 20, 2020. Terryl Warnock’s Miracle of the Day can be purchased at: 

About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her spiritual connection at People House and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.