Stop The Spread, Protect Ecosystems, Save Life

Guest blog by Mark Rotherham, Green Christian member, media producer and educator in integral ecology.

Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash

I’m living through the pandemic offline. With no internet at home I rely on public hubs at my local community centre, the library and the pub. They are of course all currently closed. The news I’m hearing on BBC Radio is devoid of context. Climate emergency, Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have disappeared. News is now dominated by daily death stats, briefings from government and invocations of WWII. 

The news fails to report that the pandemic is a predicted symptom of ecological collapse. As natural habitats are destroyed and remaining wildlife is marketed for bush-meat and body parts, humans are exposed to new viruses. It’s been estimated that there are approx. 30,000 different strains of coronavirus waiting to be unleashed if we continue to deforest and destroy ecosystems. Covid-19 is a mild warning (0.5% mortality among the infected) compared to far more lethal viruses (50% of those infected) on their way if we continue to tear up the biosphere.

Pangolins by Shukran888 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Reporting causes of the pandemic would also bring into focus the global trade in wildlife and factory farming on an unprecedented scale – keeping enormous numbers of animals immuno-stressed, antibiotic saturated and packed together in conditions guaranteed to incubate the most virulent, novel, drug resistant diseases. These factors are increasingly merged as attempts are made to farm exotic and endangered animals such as pangolins, bears, civets and tigers. 

Climate change is also a direct contributor to pandemic disease. Permafrost, for example, is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses – it’s cold, dark, and there’s no oxygen. Scientists managed to revive an 8-million-year-old bacterium found frozen in a glacier. Researchers believe that Spanish flu virus, smallpox, and bubonic plague bacteria lie buried under ice in Siberia and Alaska. With the melting ice come the revived pathogens. And with a warmer world come disease vectors such as mosquitoes, able to migrate to previously cooler uninhabitable geographic regions. 

This pandemic is an endogenous and not an exogenous shock to the global economic system. School children around the world know this, which is why Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the School Strike Movement demanded “System change not climate change.” This structural understanding, however, is absent from daily media reports. The master narrative directs us to ‘win the war against the virus’ so that we can ‘get back to normal.’ 

The greatest peril we face going forward is a ‘new normal’ led by the same corporate-political elite whose rampant self-interest defined the pre-pandemic era. The 2018 IPCC report recommended that “limiting global warming to 1.5C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Might we “flatten the curve” on carbon emissions and wealth inequality with the same urgency as stopping the spread of Covid-19? 

The inconvenient truth is that it is impossible to “stay safe” or “keep well” in a dying world. There is no vaccine for species extinction. No PPE will protect us from deforestation or ocean acidification. Lockdown will not reduce chemical pollution, plastic waste or soil erosion. And socially isolating ourselves is useless against floods or a collapse in world food supply.

We need to counter the reductionist narrative of war and address multiple symptoms of ecological breakdown simultaneously if we are to stand any chance of navigating the approaching storms.

For more on the pandemic and wildlife trafficking:

  • Green Christian’s Radical Presence is a short programme of conversations, in which we’ll listen for God’s word in this time of pandemic.
  • The Renew our World campaign is calling for a fundamental rethink regarding humanity’s relationship with nature in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • A new report shows that Facebook is allowing traffickers sell pangolin parts on their platform. SumOfUs has a petition asking Facebook to increase enforcement of their wildlife trafficking policy and ensure that no threatened or endangered species parts are sold on their platform.

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Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 4 May, 2020 | Category: Climate Emergency Opinion | Comments: 1


Comments on "Stop The Spread, Protect Ecosystems, Save Life"

Laura Deacon:

May 7, 2020

Inspired. Thank you Mark.


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