Looking to the Future in the Midst of a Pandemic

A Message from Canopy’s Executive Director, Nicole Rycroft


This is a turbulent and anxious time to be alive. A microscopic organism has changed our way of life, shown how precious our friends and family are to us, and reminded us of what an interconnected web the world is.

I have been stunned by the ferocity and speed of the coronavirus during these past weeks. Illness, fear, and economic chaos are creating hardship for billions of people. Like all of us I have been coping with the immediate threat to my family, community, and colleagues, but as Executive Director of an environmental organization I am also keeping my sights trained on how we can build resiliency for the long term and address the multiple global threats we face together. In this new reality I will make sure Canopy stays safe, shows compassion, and provides solutions and positive leadership as humanity re-builds itself and we reinvent our economic systems.

As we’ve moved to temporarily insular lives to literally save ourselves and others, the functioning of our communities has come into sharp focus. Our gratitude for healthcare workers and grocery store clerks alike, who stay at work so that we can be safe, healthy and fed, has turned our perceptions of important work upside down. We are now acutely aware of how the passing of strangers in a store across an ocean can affect the well-being and fortunes of nations at all ends of the planet. COVID-19 has illustrated how thoroughly we are all personally connected to each other, for better or for worse.

I have been contemplating what the “for better” will be. On the other side of this experience we will be in a rare position to reset our path in many aspects of our businesses and communities. The unprecedented shut down of the economy will require a rebuild. We will be looking at measures to prevent a similar pandemic from happening again, being prepared if it does, and concurrently stimulating an economic system whose 400-year-old “motors” are beyond their best-before dates and have slowed to a laborious chug.

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution we have the clear choice of simply firing up the “fossil” motors and re-creating the problems we’ve had or re-tooling to build safer, healthier, and more positively connected supply chains and economies that work for all of us.

Large-scale conservation is a central platform in this economic reboot. It is also central to efforts to prevent further epidemics. As we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts, they need to find new hosts – and increasingly those hosts are us.

Five of the epidemics in recent years — Ebola1,2, SARS3, bird flu4, MERS and now COVID-195,6 — have all crossed the human-animal barrier due to the unsustainable exploitation of animals, the wildlife trade, and disruption of intact forest landscapes. A growing body of science shows that the degradation of these ecosystems not only erodes our climate and the health of biodiversity, it also creates dangerous conditions for new diseases that pose unprecedented threats to humanity. Good relationships between ourselves and our planetary home can be one of the “aha!” moments from this crisis and must be central to our path forward.

We at Canopy want to do the important work of re-building with all of you. Many of us will be directly affected by COVID-19 and so we wish you all good health and strength to cope well. If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps this terrible virus will produce a renaissance of the imagination.

In times of crisis, community is more important than ever and we are so thankful to have you as part of ours.






1World Health Organization, March 2020 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ebola-virus-disease

2Transmission of Ebola Virus Disease: An Overview. SureshRewarMPharm1DashrathMirdhaBAMS2. Annals of Global Health. November 2014

3Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection Vincent C. C. Cheng, et al.  Clinical Microbiology Reviews, Oct. 2007.

4Interview with Kate Jones, Chair of Ecology and Biodiversity, London’s Global University UCL https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/destroyed-habitat-creates-the-perfect-conditions-for-coronavirus-to-emerge/

5Interview with Aaron Bernstein, Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. March 2020 


6COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin. March 2020