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Foot of Folly
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Fantasy of Mother Earth's head as a hill; she is looking at a heart-shaped cloud; meanwhile people climb her; there is a city below her The Ecology of Disease

Understand the Ecology of Disease:-
  • Human health is linked to animal health and planetary health (BBC, posted and accessed 8 April 2020)
  • Destroying nature unleashes infectious diseases (The New York Times, posted 14 July 2012, accessed 14 April 2020)
  • Degraded environments and pollution make us more likely to encounter novel viruses and to be more vulnerable to those viruses when they start to circulate. (Dr Karen O'Neill, Rutgers University, cited at BBC, posted and accessed 22 April 2020)
  • The current approach to disease outbreaks is trying to contain them and develop treatments or vaccines, which the scientists say is a “slow and uncertain path”. Instead the root causes must be tackled, including stopping the demolition of forests to produce meat, palm oil, metals and other commodities for richer countries. (The Guardian, posted and accessed 29 October 2020)
  • Warming temperatures [due to the CEE] do not only threaten lives directly. They also cause billions of hours of lost labor, enhance conditions for the spread of infectious diseases and reduce crop yields. (Scientific American, 29 June 2021 tweet; full article here)
Scientists say that our destructive relationship with nature is putting us at greater risk of pandemic diseases (see ‘Extinction: The Facts’, BBC documentary with David Attenborough, 2020, ±34m35s):-
  1. Wildlife markets are unprecedented in scale. Animal-to-human contact is vastly increased. Many of these trapped/caged animals are highly stressed, which means they shed their viruses at higher rates (through their excretions). Viruses can pass to us so more easily.
  2. We are encroaching further and further into wildlife habitat. 31% of all emerging diseases have originated through the process of land use change. Our consumption of beef and poultry and the associated feeds they need drive the pandemics. Also, not all animals pass on viruses. It’s more likely to be small animals (rats/mice/bats), but with habitat loss, the animals that prey on these smaller animals are not there to keep them in check.
Scientists estimate if we continue exploiting nature in these ways, we will see five new emerging diseases every year.

Foot of Folly - a foot as big as the beautiful landscape is about to stamp down on it

We are heavily exploiting - and thus destroying - Nature.
'civilised' life, 'fun', medical research and greedy profit.

And so we are effectively self-harming.
Ourselves and our descendants.

Coronavirus is but the start. Worse disease and ecological breakdown is to come unless we start cooperating with Nature...

The house is on fire and we are all locked in, because of a disease that came from our mismanagement of nature. (Inger Anderson, head of the UN Environment Programme, cited at BBC, posted 30 September 2020, accessed 1 October 2020)

stop blaming China for Covid-19 (e.g. Trump).
Stop blaming its deliberate release by a satanic elite (e.g. QAnon
The capitalist system in its ignorance and greed is to blame.

The billionaire elite and corporations of the Rich World need to be removed from power.
Although capitalism did not deliberately create coronavirus, it was a direct consequence of its inhuman policy. Similarly it has created the current Climate and Ecological Emergency.

The climate crisis is not a human-induced disaster. It's an economic crime scene.
(Julia Steinberger, Professor in Social Ecology & Ecological Economics, 25 September 2020 tweet)

These crises - health, environmental - can be largely averted by creating a just and sustainable money and political system.

A hedge has a beautiful heart shape cut from it

We need to care for Nature and in doing so we truly care for us and our children:-
  • Everything we do should be predicated on keeping nature intact. Otherwise, if you’re destroying nature to make money or to provide even things that are important, in the end you’re going to have a bigger bill to pay than if you kept nature healthy and functioning and robust. (Jim Robbins, 23m18s, posted 2 April 2020, accessed 14 April 2020)
  • If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature. Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife. Teams of veterinarians and conservation biologists are in the midst of a global effort with medical doctors and epidemiologists to understand the “ecology of disease.” (Jim Robbins, The New York Times, posted 14 July 2012, accessed 14 April 2020)

For me, the deep story is that if the capitalist, greedy, corporate, nature-exploiting system did not rule Earth (see here), then pandemics would be so much less likely = far less deaths from pandemics + manmade climate change + loss of biodiversity and food supply collapse = the complicated situation from pandemic lockdowns may never arise.
Or as Ricardo Rocha (University of Porto, Portugal, cited at BBC, posted and accessed 13 October 2020) puts it more politely: "If there is a big take-home message from this unfortunate moment in history [coronavirus] it's that making nature ill, makes us ill."
Pandemics also require so much plastic PPE and this has only further polluted Nature. Less pandemics means less plastic pollution = cleaner Nature = healthier humans!
Instead of Covid-19's "Space - Face - Hands" (i.e. distancing, masks, handwashing), if we truly want to save lives long-term, the message is simply "Save Nature".
In other words, the real story is: ‘Change the (fucked-up) system and save far more lives, both animal and human’.

Heart made of branches, hanging in nature, the sun shines through

Further Quotes

Pandemics are not a question of fearful and anxious reaction, but rather all about wise prevention. By preserving biodiversity and honouring Nature, we prevent pandemics. Since 1994, there have been seven diseases caused by our severe abuse of nature. Covid-19 has been the first global pandemic. Unless we want more, put Nature first!
(Inspired by Extinction Rebellion Madrid 5 November 2020

'Turning wild spaces into farmland and cities has created more opportunities for animal diseases to cross into humans, scientists have warned.
Our transformation of the natural landscape drives out many wild animals, but favours species more likely to carry diseases, a study suggests. The work adds to growing evidence that exploitation of nature fuels pandemics. Scientists estimate that three out of every four new emerging infectious diseases come from animals...
When humans modify habitats, more unique species are consistently lost and are replaced by species that are found everywhere, such as pigeons in cities and rats in farmland. These survivors appear to be the ones that host the highest number of diseases. They include certain rodents, bats and birds.'
(BBC, posted 5 August 2020, accessed 8 August 2020)

'The world is in an “era of pandemics” and unless the destruction of the natural world is halted they will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before, according to a report from some of the world’s leading scientists.
The emergence of diseases such as Covid-19, bird flu and HIV from animals was entirely driven by the razing of wild places for farming and the trade in wild species, which brought people into contact with the dangerous microbes, the experts said.
“The risk of pandemics is increasing rapidly, with more than five new diseases emerging in people every year, any one of which has the potential to become pandemic,” the report says.
It estimates there are more than 500,000 unknown viruses in mammals and birds that could infect humans.
The current approach to disease outbreaks is trying to contain them and develop treatments or vaccines, which the scientists say is a “slow and uncertain path”. Instead the root causes must be tackled, including stopping the demolition of forests to produce meat, palm oil, metals and other commodities for richer countries.'
(The Guardian, posted and accessed 29 October 2020)

New coalition calls on governments to tackle root cause of emerging infections – the destruction of nature...
Global spending to date in response to Covid-19 is believed to exceed $20tn (£14.45tn) but a study from July estimated spending just $27bn a year would substantially reduce the risks of another pandemic on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak.
(The Guardian, posted and accessed 9 March 2021)

Blue butterflies and fungi in a surreal ecosystem

This point is backed by Professor James Wood, of Cambridge University. “I think there is very strong evidence for this [Covid-19] being caused by natural spillovers but that argument simply does not suit some political groups. They promote the idea that Covid-19 was caused by a lab leak because such a claim deflects attention from increasing evidence that indicates biodiversity loss, deforestation and wildlife trade – which increase the dangers of natural spillovers – are the real dangers that we face from pandemics.”
In other words, fiddling with viruses in laboratories is not the dangerous activity. The real threat comes from the wildlife trade, bulldozing rainforests and clearing wildernesses to provide land for farms and to gain access to mines. As vegetation and wildlife are destroyed, countless species of viruses and the bacteria they host are set loose to seek new hosts, such as humans and domestic livestock. This has happened with HIV, Sars and very probably Covid-19.
And that, for many scientists, is the real lesson of Covid-19.
(Robin McKie, The Guardian, posted and accessed 22 August 2021)

Nature fantasy of atmospheric seascape with mist and clouds and background land and birds and to the right a young woman's face faded into the sky intently looking at us

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Page last updated: 24 May 2022.