It is important to acknowledge the enormous grief and loss and suffering that a pandemic brings- those who lives were cut short , those who others relied on for their physical or emotional wellbeing, and those who made a wonderful contribution to a better life for all, while they were alive.
Prior to vaccine rollout in the ‘developed’ world, those countries that did best at reducing COVID deaths and infections were island nations- New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland, Australia and even South Korea whose mainland border to the north is almost completely sealed. Being able to restrict access by humans from other countries played a huge role in reducing risk, and a sea border is a very efficient border wall once passenger flights are stopped or very closely monitored.
The most marked exception to the sea border rule is China, whose COVID restriction practices, while repressive to a degree, resulted in more freedom as a result of the control of the spread of COVID infection.
The map below from Our WorldinData.org for 3rd May 2021 illustrates the wide variation in death rates across the globe. Infection and death rates are a far more reliable indicator of a country’s effectiveness in managing the Covid crisis than simple numbers. A case in point being India , with a current horrific number of deaths (226,188 as of 4th May- but a rate per million population of only 163.9, as opposed to for instance the current rate of deaths in Bulgaria of 2390 per million but ‘only’ 16,609 deaths in total.
The map would suggest that while poorer countries have less effective formal health systems, they have an advantage of less mobile populations to spread the virus, and often greater access to open spaces where virus particles can more safely disperse.
However, once vaccines began to roll out, we begin to see a different story. Britain, a country with the highest death rate per million population for much of the earlier pandemic as a result of government incompetency and corruption, has now seen a remarkable reduction in deaths over the past month as the vaccine has been rolled out in a very systematic way. Similarly the United States, and some of the more wealthy European countries like Germany and the Scandinavian countries are also beginning to show marked improvements in death rates; in part because of tight lockdowns and the onset of summer with people spending less time in enclosed spaces , but mainly due to the vaccine roll-out.
Unsurprisingly, ugly power games between countries vying to be ‘top dog’ in the world, have resulted in extensive propaganda by all sides in rolling out vaccines to the world. These global power plays and the truly appalling greed of the pharmaceutical companies has also played a part in ensuring that the poorest countries do not get adequate access to vaccines, despite all the hollow platitudes from the United Nations and the propaganda from states.
One sublime example of the propaganda at play is this Guardian article which argues that because many Western governments are refusing to use the Russian Sputnik V vaccine because it is Russian (and dares to have the Russian flag on the box!), it is therefore a Russian ploy to sow dissent in the West. The fact that the esteemed (U.K.) Lancet medical journal has stated that Sputnik V has an enviable efficacy rate of 91.6%, doesn’t rate a mention. Sadly the article is one more demonstration of the global degradation of investigative reporting skills, understanding the difference between allegation and fact, and the capacity to use logical analysis. (but anything to further the ‘West is good/Russia bad’ meme)
The COVID epidemic has graphically illustrated the incompetency of many world leaders, and a reminder of the brutal sadism of many of them to kill innocent people in far away lands because of petulant power plays, jingoism and systematic racism.
Along with state power and incompetency, we have also witnessed the capacity of global pharmaceutical companies to capture the enduring essence of capitalism:- profits at any expense, including the loss of millions of human lives.
No wonder then, that there is a desperate need for the United States to try and re-assert itself as ‘world leader’ and master of the universe in the face of governments who share proved demonstrably more agile, smarter and more compassionate to the needs of their populations. The bully-boy of the globe is under threat: from within and without. Secretary of State Pompeo therefore exemplifies perfectly what America stands for- and what it has always stood for: greed, violence and lies. The new trade alliance with the U.K. one of the desperate last gasp attempts to maintain some hegemony in the world .
In places like New Zealand and other countries high on the ‘bucket list’ for wealthy people to visit , overseas tourism has slumped dramatically since the pandemic. Tourism operators and regulators are now calling for big media campaigns to artificially promote local tourism. It does beg the question as to why our society has to rely on manipulated media -driven purposeless consumption to survive.
Tourism is one of the primary human activities which are rapidly degrading our planet till it is no longer live-able for us or any other known species. Its reliance on massive air traffic flows and consequent very high CO2 production through long-haul jet plane engines, its reliance on building non-organic infrastructure like roads, hotels, tracks through nature and many other acts of ‘progress’, in natural environments and consequent human traffic, which rapidly degrade the lives of other species we are so desperate to see, are just two of the massively environmentally destructive activities of tourism that global human populations has been sold as a ‘must-have’ over the past 30 years.
It has to stop. It will stop, but surely better it is that we plan now for job transfers to essential and non-environmentally destructive activities, before we face a new inevitable likely larger shock to our crazy economic system, and consequently even more massive human dislocation, trauma and death . Unemployment deals a savage blow to people’s sense of hope and a bright future; let alone the impact it can have on access to food and health services . We know that global environmental collapse, and consequent complete economic collapse, is going to happen unless we shift our focus to providing just the essentials for human beings and stop destroying our world for nothing.
Our bizarre and psychotic magical belief in the ‘invisible hand ‘ of capitalism over the past 100 years to create wealth and happiness for all humans ( but not other species we rely on in this world for our survival)has created this appallingly stupid and callous human centric world system we live in; where other species become ‘products’ for our consumption; where the living and beautiful natural environment that surrounds us is simply there for us to make ‘productive’ by poisoning it with pesticides and fertilizers, or sealing it over with concrete and tar; where we do not think for a moment about the massive destruction of the lives of other species we destroy every day in our quest for ‘progress’- all those animals who we now know for certain have fears and thoughts and emotions and who we so callously and cruelly inflict pain and loss on every day.
We do not need this ‘progress’ that the media and business have propagandized into our hearts and minds for so long : we can in fact live more productive and contented lives being more attuned to the living world of which we are inextricably part of- but we have to change now!
Can the COVID-19 pandemic create a change of heart in humanity, and create a more just and sustainable world?
As we have seen in the past few weeks of the Coronavirus (or COVID19) outbreak, mankind continues to seek to eliminate all risk to itself.
Craig Murray elicits a lucid outline of the contradictions in such an approach. All living things are mortal. If we were immortal, the consequences for the planet would be even more horrendous than they are now.
Man’s current predilection for moving him or herself rapidly around the globe has allowed what would have been a very localised outbreak in Wuhan city, Yunan province, China, to become a global epidemic in a few short weeks. The response therefore in most countries in the world has been to eliminate movement to reduce transmission . Airline passenger numbers globally have dropped precipitously and factory production has stalled, resulting in a remarkably fast transition to an (at least temporarily) cleaner world and where other animals and vegetation retake their rightful place on the planet .
Other strategies however like those used to contain tourists in their cruise ships when a COVID19 infection occurs on-board by circulating air in the closed-system air conditioning units of the ships to every passenger, or the U.K.s initial strategy of ‘herd immunity’, or simply blind ignorance as in Sweden or the United States, where lockdowns have largely failed to occur because of economic slowdown fears, and have instead vastly increased the risk of contagion and thus increased long-term economic risks considerably.
However we also know that that the more transmission human to human that occurs, the more likely humans will adapt to the new virus, as will the virus itself adapt to humans and thereby reduce its impact on the body once infected. An acknowledgement that all humans (as do most other species) have large amounts of “foreign” living entities in their bodies which are constantly adapting to the changing human bioome, permits us to be more cognizant (even welcoming) of new bacteria and viruses that invade our bodies.
But we also need to acknowledge that those humans whose bodies are already compromised by other health issues are much more at risk from this new virus in our bodies. To save as many lives as possible, we need to slow the onslaught on our medical systems to a manageable level and thus help reduce the death rates..
The response to COVID19 has exemplified the frailties of humans. Our insistence that economic activity and ‘taming’ (destroying) our living world take precedence over all other matters, has been shattered by our new global understanding that the interconnected world we have created in the past few decades puts us all at immediate risk when new biological threats occur.
COVID19 has also presented in stark terms the childishness and stupidity of many of our leaders: from the U.K prime minister Boris Johnson happily shaking hands with COVID19 victims on a hospital visit and now recovering himself after being in Intensive Care, to the pathetic tantrums of Donald Trump petulantly threatening to de-fund the vital role of the World Health Organisation because they clearly demonstrate the bizarre inadequacies of the for-profit U.S. ‘public’ health system.
Perhaps though it is the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro who epitomises all that is wrong with such politicised state leadership; where decisions are made not in the interest of the country and its human population (let along other living entities there) but in the interests and petty ignorance of the leader alone- so he can cling to power regardless of the devastation and death mounting around him, But we also see some other bizarre enactments of the frailties of the democratic process; in Belarus, or in Nicaragua where the Sandinista government appears to basically deny they have a problem, or Sweden, relying on a rogue epidemiologist to undertake an experiment in ‘herd immunity’ on its older people and other vulnerable populations. Sadly Hercule Poirot’s ‘little grey cells’ are not in evidence in any of these so-called ‘leaders’.
Politicians and mainstream media have continued their ongoing scaremongering about Russian threats to “our way of life”; and/or the Chinese apparently ( according to many Western politicians and MSM) for some obscure reason choosing to hide the fact that they had a pandemic for more than two weeks from their local population and the world, and have been covering up the data ever since . Why?- well because they are ‘evil people’ basically and not like us!- and because ultimately, if the United States is to retain its rapidly diminishing status as the ‘exceptional nation’, it is going to have to bomb the hell out of any up-and-coming nation that threatens its imperial hegemony in the world..
As had been noted by the World Health Organisation and many other epidemiologists, the Chinese government response to the Wuhan pandemic has been rapid and responsive and effective. More effective than other country’s response to date. However the mainstream media and other Western commentators like to spin it, the reality is that the amazing reduction in deaths and infections in Wuhan and across China has not been because “China is an authoritarian state’, but because it has mobilized all aspects of society; businesses, state organisations and community organisations in a very systematic way, and not because, as one U.S. epidemiologist has said: ‘ the most important( reason) is that the impact of physical distancing achieved in China has been hard to accomplish elsewhere, mostly because of the freedoms we correctly value in liberal democracies’.That commentary is simply a sad reflection of many Western countries’ lack of will, leadership and a cultural awareness of community and society rather than pure individuality and how the short term imperatives of the business economy ‘trumps’ everything else, including people’s well-being in our individualist neo-liberal world.
Knowing when a series of similar cases is in fact an epidemic is extremely difficult for any health agency; and given that COVID-19 is a totally new virus, the response to the epidemic in Wuhan was surprisingly fast. The work done in Wuhan is described in detail here. Western media continue to belittle that response and cast doubt on the accuracy of the data while all the time providing misleading death figures by often excluding non hospital deaths, and particularly people in aged care facilities, or people with other morbidities like cardiovascular disease who would not have died at that time without COVID-19 complications .
In a few years once the politics of all this faded on to something else, we will find that the death rate in Europe and the U.S. was substantially higher than has been reported to date. The equation is simple- what is a ‘normal’ death rate for a particular time period and location , and what was the rate under COVID-19?
Some writers have subsequently that the world must and will change because of COVID19: that we will become more caring and connected communities, that neo-liberalism has demonstrated its complete indifference, callousness and incapacity to respond to such global crises and the human suffering it causes, and will go down the plug-hole of history, or even that greed and selfishness will be inexorably replaced by caring and just communities. Sadly , it is very unlikely that any of those hoped for responses will occur in the sort to medium term.
For as long as this economic system can continue to exploit our living world and our less fortunate human populations, and a few people can make a huge amount of money; then the depredation of this planet will continue and the planet will continue its path to destruction.
It is not by the goodness in people’s hearts, or lecturing by this or that environmental group or the Extinction Rebellion, that much of the world’s populations will begin to interact in sustainable ways with our living world; it will be because they are forced to make pragmatic changes that allow they and their families and communities to survive in a rapidly changing climate and green world.
However there is hope. As we plunge headlong ever faster to environmental global disaster, global shocks to our fragile and senseless economic system will begin to multiply. Insurance companies will go bankrupt, debt-ridden incompetent governments will increasingly become unable to prop up existing exploitative companies, world tourism and air-traffic will decline precipitously, and people’s livelihoods will steadily become re-oriented towards sustainable activities and “essential’ service.
Then, and only then, will we begin the journey back to a sustainable world where we can live in harmony with our fellow living beings.
As the tongue in cheek image from Facebook demonstrates, we are indeed seeing animals and birds and presumably other more invisible species, reclaiming their birthright in our human oriented environments as human busi-ness recedes. So many humans are now rejoicing in being able to once again interact with our fellow species …