News and analysis of a world in peril
 
We were warned - a wayward species and the origin of the virus
Covid-19 is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious underlying problem - our own destruction of the natual environment.
... writes Tred Magill Saturday, September 5, 2020

A few weeks into the (global) lockdown, observations started to surface about how the environment was being affected by the lockdown.

Penguins were filmed waddling down Simonstown Main Road, Cape Town, a kangaroo bouncing around the streets of Adelaide, Australia, an alligator shuffling towards a building in South Carolina, US, lions snoozing on a golf course in the Kruger National Park, elephants crossing a road in Thailand, sea elephants in Argentina, sheep playing on a merry-go-round in a children's park in Raglan, US, a rhinoceros cruising the streets in Nepal, Deer ion the east London, UK, pigs and ducks in Paris, sheep in the streets of Llandudno, Wales, a brown bear in Monrovia, California, a wolf on the beach in San Francisco, an elephant in India ... and reports of clear, smog-free skies and fresher air.

While we humans have been forced to stay home, the animal world appears to have come out to play ... making us realise the space and the freedom of movement we have taken from them. It's almost like the environment has had a brief chance to gasp a breath of air.

And I wonder ... perhaps this virus is a symptom of something much more serious.

Humans have been burning fossil-fuels fast and furious for well over 150 years - since the industrial revolution - pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so as to warm ourselves and generate energy for cars, airplanes, electricity, and every conceivable appliance on the market. How can the planet not be warming? - air pollution and global warming are facts.

We've also been decimating forests; tearing down trees to make paper, space for domestic crops and suburbs for an ever-expanding population.

And in this process, animal habitats are destroyed and the animals themselves killed or confined to shrinking areas ... forced into contact (and conflict) with humans and other creatures.

Coupled to this are further technological innovations and medical science. Never before has the rate of change been faster: Technology which enables us to control just about anything and everything on planet earth ... and medical science, which has us living much longer.

And every person has a 'right to life' ... and a right to food and water, a home, electricity, to health services, an education, to work, ... and a car, a holiday ... and stuff.

We've been seduced by 'stuff' and are constantly driven to buy, buy, buy; a consumerism which keeps us shackled to an economy that demands constant growth ... a growth that can never end, because the capitalist world economy cannot survive without growth and innovation.

It's a system which demands growth to create resources for the ever-expanding population and the jobs for them to produce it, so they can pay for it themselves rather than depend on the State. And while the means of production remain in the hands of an elite, applying economies of scale, so the demand for labour gets less and the cost of production goes down (hence profits); and the inequalities get bigger ... and bigger. That is the perpetual cycle we're locked-down to.

How much more obvious can it be? .... that this cannot continue ... that the earth has finite resources; and that we are driving ourselves over the edge, like lemmings. There is absolutely no meaning to sustainability until we can put a hold on population growth, to slow down or stop the rate of consumption, stop burning fossil fuels, stop global warming, stop pollution and climate change; BEFORE the natural world which supports us, is finally and irrevocably destroyed.

"This pandemic is also a stark reminder of our dysfunctional relationship with nature", writes Marie Quinney, a specialist for the Nature Action Agenda, of the World Economic Forum"

"The current economic system has put great pressure on the natural environment, and the unfolding pandemic has shone a light on the domino effect that is triggered when one element in this interconnected system is destabilised.

"Intact nature provides a buffer between humans and disease, and emerging diseases are often the results of encroachment into natural ecosystems and changes in human activity. In the Amazon, for example, deforestation increases the rates of malaria, since deforested land is the ideal habitat for mosquitoes. Deforested land has also been linked to outbreaks of Ebola and Lyme disease, as humans come into contact with previously untouched wildlife.

"A study published this year found that deforestation in Uganda was increasing the emergence of animal-to-human diseases and stresses that human behaviour is the underlying cause. Altering nature too much or in the wrong way, therefore, can have devastating human implications.

"While the origin of the COVID-19 virus is yet to be established, 60% of infectious diseases originate from animals, and 70% of emerging infectious diseases originate from wildlife. AIDS, for example, came from chimpanzees, and SARS is thought to have been transmitted from an animal still unknown to this day. We have lost 60% of all wildlife in the last 50 years, while the number of new infectious diseases has quadrupled in the last 60 years. It is no coincidence that the destruction of ecosystems has coincided with a sharp increase in such diseases.

"Natural habitats are being reduced, causing species to live in closer quarters than ever to one another and to humans. As some people opt to invade forests and wild landscapes due to business interests and others at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum are forced to search for resources for survival, we damage the ecosystems, risking that viruses from animals find new hosts us.

"Given our interconnected and ever-changing world, with air travel, wildlife marketing and a changing climate, the potential for further serious outbreaks remains significant. Pandemics are, therefore, often a hidden side effect of economic development and inequalities that can no longer be ignored. In other words, just as carbon is not the cause of climate change, it is human activity - not nature - that causes many pandemics."

It is long overdue that we took responsibility.

When are we going to finally act on the truth we've lost sight of, but which is right now staring us in the face? ... that we are not immortal and are born to die, whether that be by a virus, or old age. When will we acknowledge that we are a product of the earth and are sustained by it; and that by consuming its natural resources, we destroy the very thing that sustains us.

In the words of Chief Seattle : "Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like that blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator."

Now that's something I would stay home for .. but will we? - (128)

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Life under lockdown

- examining the absurdities of
   a government response

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. - Evelyn Beatrice Hall (4)
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