From Plague to a Livable World

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The 2020 corona virus pandemic is not merely killing countless people. It is also having invisible but deleterious effects: psychological, political, and intellectual. Some people cannot cope with the severe economic effects of the plague, the constant barrage of bad news, and of being alone and isolated. They probably commit suicide. Others enter realms of fantasy and conspiracy. And still others, who know how to oil the wheels of power and influence, are taking advantage of America’s corrupt Trump administration.

It’s like we are back to the dark ages when religious superstition, oppression, ignorance and oligarchy dominated life and politics.

In 2020, our first sense that things are wrong is our “distancing” from each other. We and all other animals are by definition social, depended on close contact and relationships.

Our next shock comes from observing those who know. Medicine men and women and public health experts, dressed in plastic and masks, say technical and largely incomprehensive things and act in ambiguity, as if they really don’t know what they are doing.

To add insult to injury, the Trump administration is taking advantage of the plague and, intentionally, keeps Americans confused, divided, and in the dark.

This is not difficult because America has been declining to the standards of a Third World country for decades. It has the military might of an empire but not the infrastructure, leadership, intelligence or vision of an empire, much less of a democracy. It’s a gigantic plantation where only the dollar talks. There’s no sense of community or common purpose. Inequality has all but buried those ideals and civilization. You walk into the office of a doctor and the first question they ask you is: do you have insurance?

Most Americans are powerless and out of the mind of decision makers, Democrat and Republican, especially the latter who enthroned Trump.

Members of the Republican Party want another four years for their supreme leader. Trump bribed them with less taxes and giveaways and promises more tax-cuts and privileges.

But now that the virus plague has nearly shut down both the country and business, the strategy of Trump is to suppress science even more in favor of superstition.

However, the lethal effects of the pandemic set aside the incoherence and irresponsibility of the Trump administration. Americans, like people all over the world, have largely been staying home. This measure probably slowed down the spread of the virus.

But if people avoid each other on the outdoors, why do authorities insist they have to wear masks? Are we to imagine the entire atmosphere is somehow contaminated with the spores of this deadly disease?

If the answer to this question is yes, then we are facing a holocaust. I don’t want to even consider such a prospect. But it is extremely disturbing that knowledgeable people fail to shed light on the origins and nature of this pandemic.

Where did it come from? Was it a result of ecocide or biological warfare?

Wuhan, China

The accepted narrative, including that from the US Intelligence Community, says the virus came from China: it jumped from bats to humans in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a wild animals bazar selling dead and live bats in Wuhan, China. Infected Chinese travelled to other cities in China, the United States, and all over the world spreading the corona disease and making it a pandemic.

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province. It is also a gigantic city hosting the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Both of these scientific centers study corona viruses.

The Virology Institute sends teams of scientists in search of bats in the forests near Wuhan. These experts enter bat caves and catch bats for the study of their viruses. This is a hazardous task as some of the viruses are very dangerous.

Lab scientists extract two or more viruses from captured bats. Out of these viruses, they engineer a hybrid species they call chimera virus. This chimera virus could be pathogenic enough to cause a pandemic.

The name chimera comes from Greek mythology about a monster made up of three animals: a lion with the neck and head of a goat sprouting from its back and a snake head at the end of the lion’s tail.

Are biological engineers fiddling with viruses in laboratories all over the world on their way of engineering another chimera monster? They probably are aware no one can control such a monster. So, why are they pursuing such experiments?

We know that some of the research at the Virology lab of Wuhan was funded by the governments of China and America. Richard H. Ebright, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, Waksman Institute of Microbiology, Rutgers University, reported that the Chinese and American scientists working together at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been engineering chimeras in order to study the degree to which bat viruses might infect humans. Their genetic engineering methods left no fingertips, however:

“[Chinese and American scientists at the Virology Institute at Wuhan] constructed a series of novel chimeric viruses encoding different receptor binding domains–with different receptor binding affinities–in an otherwise constant genomic context. And did so using “seamless ligation” procedures that leave no signatures of human manipulation.”

It’s not clear if there’s a connection between the outbreak of the virus pandemic in Wuhan and the Wuhan biolab. But what is clear is that on the eve of the lockdown of Wuhan, January 23, 2020, five million Chinese from Wuhan left the city. They visited relatives in other cities and traveled abroad.

Biological warfare labs

The other more problematic theory is that biological warfare labs engineered the corona virus into a deadly species. This engineered chimera virus then either escaped from the lab by accident or it was released intentionally as a weapon of war.

Accidental lab releases of pathogens is not that unusual.

However, neither China nor America would  have willfully started a biological war for a simple reason: such a war, like nuclear conflict, would have no winners. Thus, if this corona virus was an engineered chimera weapon, which seems unlikely, it might have escaped a lab by mistake.

Plagues from ecocide

My hunch is that the virus was a product of the devastation of nature through mining, fossil fuel extraction, burning of gigantic forests like the Amazon, logging, industrialized agriculture, billions of cattle grazing grasslands, and the wanton destruction and pollution of the natural world on land and sea.

This decades-long colossal ecocide has brought humans very much into the last wildlife refuges, corners and secret places of nature, caves for bats and other unsuspected wildlife sanctuaries now defiled and invaded by trappers, hunters, and wildlife merchants.

Viruses have probably coevolved and  coexisted with wildlife. Which is to say, human intrusion into that relationship comes at heavy costs.

Some blame Chinese traditional medicine for encouraging the eating of rare wild animals for imagined therapeutic and other miraculous reasons. This sheds some light on Wuhan and its wildlife market. But why the virus explosion in 2020 and not before?

Biological warfare

The second and equally dangerous adventure is biological warfare. Why would highly intelligent human beings who should know better are risking civilization?

After all, these policy makers licensing biolabs know or should know the history of the inhumane and holocaust-like experience of chemical warfare of WWI and the mayhem and consequences of World War II and nuclear weapons. Why are they indulging in biological weapons? Is humanity their target?

These biological experts and their political bosses should have known that genetic engineering, mother of biological warfare, would potentially become the poor nations’ nuclear bomb.

However, now that the gene is out of the bottle, now that we are all tasting and living the bitter fruits of hatred: with the virus killing both rich and poor in both rich and poor countries: are we ready to make amends and say enough is enough?

If the answer to this question is yes, here’s a modest proposal:

A strategy for a livable world

Give the UN Security Council power to do the following:

Eliminate all nuclear weapons in the countries having such weapons (post-Trump US, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea, France, UK, and Israel).

Destroy all biological weapons labs and forbid any additional research in either nuclear weapons or genetic engineering / biological weapons.

Abolish industrialized agriculture the world over. In the United States, use the Sherman antitrust laws to break up large farms to small family farms using organic methods of raising food. This means a return to traditional farming enriched by the latest findings of the science of agroecology.

Ban all pesticides and the genetic engineering of crops.

The name of pesticides is accurate but misleading: they kill more than pests. They kill all forms of life. However, they also, insidiously, weaken and destroy the immune defenses of humans and wildlife against disease.

In a March 1996 report, the World Resources Institute summarized the deleterious effects of pesticides on the immune systems of wildlife and humans:

“Studies have shown that pesticide exposure significantly reduces resistance to bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections and promotes tumor growth in many animal species.…

“Among occupationally exposed farmers in particular, researchers found elevated rates of the infectious diseases of the following organ systems: gastro-intestinal, urinary tract, female genital tract, and respiratory tract….

“Exposure to many pesticides produces significant changes in immune system structure and function, including reduced and altered T cell populations, reduced lymphocyte proliferative response, reduced cell-killing activity, and altered antibody levels in circulation… these changes can be accompanied by increased risks of infectious diseases and cancers associated with immuno-suppression, even in otherwise healthy populations.”

Considering the decades-long obsession of industrial farmers, landscapers, loggers and homeowners with these “pest control” deleterious substances, the damage against public health is abhorrent and gigantic.

In addition, America has numerous underlying conditions for the spread and deadly effects of a plague like the corona virus pandemic.

I already suggested the billionaire rulers of America have made it like Pakistan and Belarus. It is a giant country inflicted by chronic ills: a failing infrastructure, a corrupt medical and pharmaceutical establishment, and a heartless economic and political class that cares less for democracy and public and environmental health.

This is probably why America has had so many deaths from the corona plague. Corrupt politics makes large farms and pesticides inevitable and, together, have made Americans very vulnerable to disease.

Equally important: ban the burning and logging of forests: put out the fires in the Amazon, reforest its degraded parts, and make it a patrimony for all humanity.

If the Brazilian government resists, change that government. Help Brazil to earn a living without devastating the Amazon. And pay the indigenous people of Brazil to protect the Amazon.

Allow indigenous people everywhere to flourish in their lands, including forests: protect wildlife and put a brake to the extinction of insects, birds and other animals and plants.

Fight climate change by the massive worldwide adoption of zero carbon-emission technologies.

This kind of world is unlikely to be an ecological or political utopia. However, this revitalized world would most likely be immune to plagues. It would probably buffer humanity from the irreversible effects of rising temperatures and give humans another chance to reducing their numbers significantly while reviving their wounded civilization.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.