I attended one of three major biodiversity planning meetings this February, originally scheduled for China, but relocated to Rome. The day I arrived, there were three cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 in northern Italy. Two days later there were 21, and five days later there were 229. I left the fifth day, without even attending the primary workshop. A colleague teased me, and I worried that I had over-reacted. From my early training in public health, I suspected this was not just a distant wave, but an unstoppable tsunami that would soon crash upon the world. A few short weeks later, the magnitude of this tsunami became clear, a once-in-a-century crisis that threatens to upend every society on earth.
This year was supposed to be a ‘Super Year for Nature,’ with a number of global meetings; a World Conservation Congress, a UN Ocean Conference, and a UN Nature Summit – all culminating in a global biodiversity conference that would agree on a decade-long 'Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework'. This was supposed to be the year that launched the Decade of Restoration, and that finally acknowledged nature-based solutions in climate negotiations. But COVID-19 had other plans. We must learn and adapt faster than ever, and the virus has lessons that apply to the global crises of biodiversity loss.