In a fuming display of rage, I’m prepared to explain to you why humans have messed everything up. But I won’t. Not yet, exactly.
Bought for me two months ago by my girlfriend’s mother is a book titled Humans: A Brief History Of How We Fucked It All Up by Tom Phillips. It’s a great read and dives into religion, politics, the whole climate change thing. Accurate and true, it’s almost painful. I’m almost concerned as to why she ‘thought of me’ when purchasing.
We’re in a pandemic, by the way. Have you heard?
COVID-19 has shut down entire economies, including those with relatively high safety nets such as New Zealand (even though they’re much better off than the U.S. is). And it isn’t going away.
The number of infectious global disease outbreaks has increased significantly since 1980, from SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, Ebola outbreaks in 2012 and 2014, the Zika virus, and of course Coronavirus which began in late 2019. Critics of former U.S. President Donald Trump noted that he abolished several programs in place to both handle a pandemic like COVID-19 and alert us well before it hit us hard. This outbreak was inevitable and long after it’s gone, another will be on its way.
The significant issue is that COVID-19 and climate change are drastically linked. At least 31% of disease outbreaks are tied to deforestation. Nearly 90% of the wetlands have disappeared because of the human race and wildlife is basically gone in an effort to feed a single species. Hint: it’s us.
Because humans are essentially trying to “merge with the wild,” the likelihood that we catch diseases from animals is much, much higher. Both the SARS virus and Coronavirus can both be tied to humans’ interactions with bats, and they’re the perfect hosts for such diseases. Their immune systems do not overreact to infections which keeps them from getting sick and there are more than 1,300 species of them. A quarter of the world’s mammals are bats.
Also tied to disease outbreaks are “wet markets” and factory farming. To start, many wet markets that sell meat and fish also sell things like bats and snakes, along with other wildlife. Putting raccoons and capybaras next to each other provides an ample space for animals to transmit a pathogen to another and any person who purchases can become Patient Zero in the next pandemic.
Factory farming is an issue because, like wet markets across the world, animals are kept in such close proximity to one another. Not only are we industrializing agriculture, but we’ve began to industrialize the viruses that come from that agriculture as well.
“If I wanted to design a means to select for the most dangerous pathogens imaginable, I would probably do it along the lines of how hog farms are actually operated now,” said Robert Wallace, author of “Dead Epidemiologists” and “Big Farms Make Big Flu,” told VICE. “If you have several thousand hogs packed in together and they’re all genetically largely the same, that selects for the most virulent pathogens that are possible.”
So if your question regarding the Coronavirus is “how did we get here,” maybe we should be asking, “how didn’t we sooner?” It’s very possible, and very likely, that the next pandemic is worse. Do you think COVID-19 isn’t “dangerous” because the death rate is low? The next one could be fatal to 70% of the people it infects? I’m sure you’d wish we had our shit together then.