It’s impossible to go anywhere these days without hearing the word “coronavirus” (or more specifically, Covid-19). Every media outlet (including this one) is passionately covering the topic. Arguments among friends and family are breaking out over whether it’s all media hype or a legitimate threat and, not surprisingly, every conspiracy theory under the sun is clogging the internet’s arteries, causing mass confusion and mistrust in our institutions.
Living on Earth in 2020 is like riding shotgun in a speeding vehicle where the driver just had a cocktail of every imaginable drug. Pupils dilated, pedal to the metal, he just swerved off the road and is barreling towards a canyon. That canyon can be the stock market, which has taken a major hit (but continues to fluctuate like a rollercoaster). It can also be the overall situation, as new countries join the list of documented coronavirus cases.
The efficiency with which the coronavirus spread globally is unnerving. It went from a Chinese problem to a global crisis in a matter of weeks. But this should not surprise us. Cheap flights to every corner of the globe are now the norm. Nearly every island, region and nation with something worth talking about is flooded with visitors from far-away places, thrilled to show their Instagram followers their every move, potentially picking up local viruses on the way, and bringing them home.
Since this is an environmental website, I’d also like to mention that although tourism is great for local economies, it also inundates the skies with airplanes, injecting billions of metric tons of C02 into the atmosphere every day.
To top it off, the industry is responsible for 35 million tons of solid waste dumped into our environment (including our oceans) every year.
The idea here is to create awareness, not to blame all the planet’s ailments, including the coronavirus, on the tourism industry alone. There are numerous factors at play here, but tourism is a big one.
Both for the good of the earth’s ecosystems and to mitigate the threat of global pandemics, it’s best to travel locally whenever possible. A great option for lodging is Ecobnb, which provides eco-friendly accommodations and encourages local travel.
Now onto the source of coronavirus Covid-19, which is believed to be a market in China that sells animals, both dead and alive. The original hosts of the virus are believed to be bats, which may have infected live chickens or other animals in the Wuhan market (called a Wet Market).
As human beings, our relationship with animals is complex. In some cultures, certain animals are treated as our own children, like dogs and cats. In others, these same animals are merely sources of food and subject to brutal exploitation before they are killed. While such treatment often brings about international condemnation, other countries systematically treat other animals with similar cruelty, mainly to satiate public demand for meat.
Nearly all pathogens throughout contemporary human history (tuberculosis, measles, mumps, smallpox, etc.) came into our world as the result of agriculture, (more specifically animal agriculture), which arose approximately 11,000 years ago. Most coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, circulate around animals, including domestic farm animals.
It’s quite possible that if most people around the world adopted plant-based diets and avoided animal-based products, the resurgence of epidemics such as Covid-19, SARS and MERS could potentially be avoided, as there would be little to no domestic farm animals in confined areas, in constant contact with humans. The extreme cruelty and environmental degradation caused by animal agriculture could also become a thing of the past. Plus, we could significantly improve our health and prevent other health related diseases.
Social media is helping spread conspiracy theories about the coronavirus from all angles, some claiming it was created by the US government to destroy China, others saying it was the Chinese government bent on controlling the population and destroying the US economy, others that it was Joe Biden, Fidel Castro and Santa Claus conspiring to ruin Trump’s second presidential bid. While these ideas are great click-magnets, the real reason this thing exists, and has spread so rapidly, is a convolution of complex factors, including our interconnected world and our mostly not so pleasant relationship with animals.
Let’s just hope the driver of this car can sober up, get things under control, and change his ways before it’s too late.
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