To ﬁnd reference information on terms, ideas and statements please do a web
search using the underlined words in this written piece, and also use the links.
The mega ﬁres in Australia of the recent summer were a blunt and catastrophic
expression of more extreme weather conditions (heat, wind, and drought) that
are part of the Climate Crisis. How copious was the doubt and denial of the
years of the sound and even understated science. How different are the
responses to the Covid19 pandemic which are rapidly aligning with the same
and now hard-pressed science! The irony seems lost in the now compounding
terrors of those ﬁres and the looming horrors of the Covid19 pandemic!
The microscopic virulent Coronavirus we are now facing is without doubt a
super-sharp and even more horrifying catastrophic aspect and consequence of
the Extinction Crisis. How can this be?
Viruses are microscopic and mostly smaller than bacteria, and all of them live
within and around the cells of other larger organisms. There are many different
species of coronaviruses in nature where they inhabit their chosen mammal or a
bird host species. In their preferred host each one rarely causes a signiﬁcant
problem. The bats that roost in large groups host coronaviruses that are well
adapted to spreading widely within the crowded colonies. The same applies to
social rodents like rats. Bats, rats and humans share a common vulnerability to
coronaviruses: each are highly social with frequent contact between individuals
on a daily basis. Just the right conditions for spreading viruses fast and wide.
In many regions of southeast Asia and China the larger bats (and rodents) are
traded live in so called “wet markets” along with many species of other animals,
mostly mammals. Other species include pangolins, civet cats, and several
different rodents, with mixtures of species that provide meats to both the poor
(as cheap affordable meat) and the rich (for unproven desirable properties). For
the latter some of the species are sometimes sourced from other continents
including Africa. In equatorial West Africa there are many “bush meat” markets in
remoter areas that trade mostly killed wild animals as food for poor subsistence
dwellers. In southeast Asia and China these wild-caught animals are held in
cages that are stressful and often contaminated with co-mingled faeces, urine
and mucous until they are slaughtered on site for the buyer.
In such unnatural, concentrated and stressful crowding the animals can easily
become unwell. Their normally in-check hosted coronaviruses can then ﬂourish
and be shed in large numbers. The viruses can pass from one species to
another, including to humans, via co-mingled faeces, urine, body ﬂuids and
mucous. Such a jump by a coronavirus from it’s usual host species to a new
species can provide conditions for it to develop infective virulence in the new
host, with potential to become a pandemic. If the new host has its own species
of coronavirus and the two viruses share their genetic material the hybrid can be
more virulent. And if this new strain then jumps to a third species and thrives in it
with contagious and lethal effect, a pandemic can start. These hybrid
recombinations are like new species.
Several different viruses have made such recombinations and species jumps in
the recent past. Swine ﬂu and bird ﬂu originated in pigs and chickens, but both
did transmit to humans. Fortunately for humans control measures are effective.
The deadly and highly contagious Ebola virus has erupted several times in Africa
from bat reservoirs via primates, with successful suppressions in humans each
time. Large bats and primates are frequently sold in some equatorial West
African bush meat markets. Australian bat lyssavirus is deadly, can have very
long incubation times, but fortunately is primarily transmitted by very rare and
unlikely bites or scratches from bats.
Covid19 is the name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus that is very
similar to another that causes the disease SARS. Both initially came from bats
and the passage to humans may have been via an intermediate host. There are
also other coronaviruses that affect humans with varying lethality that are
presently under control. The infective numbers and virulence of the coronavirus
that causes Covid19 was most likely ampliﬁed by the contact and hygiene
conditions for animals and workers in the wet market.
The relationship between Covid19 and the Extinction Crisis
Those large bats and other live animals in the Asian “wet markets” were taken
from the wild where they are part of that very dwindled remnant of wild mammals
that now make up only 4% of the weight of all land mammals. Our livestock and
pets make up 60% and humans a staggering 36%. This situation rings loud
warning bells of a massively unbalanced world ecosystem.
These traded wild mammals include species that are going extinct at a rapid
rate. That is, they are a prominent tip of the iceberg that is the Extinction Crisis.
The live “wet market” trade is based on the remaining wild mammal biomass for
both subsistence and for proﬁt. The proﬁteering is often done illegally (including
by criminal gangs) and at the expense of biodiversity and the integrity of remote
communities. In this trade the capture, transport and marketing practices are
unleashing novel viruses and dangerous viral recombinations.
Of course “wet markets” are only one of the many contributors to the Extinction
Crisis: hunting, habitat changes and losses, land clearing, and introduced
competitors and predators are some other more important overall ecological
causes. Each of these can be traced back to relatively benign and well-meaning
low key origins, but all have grown to out-of-balance levels with signiﬁcant
unsustainable, unethical, exploitative, and proﬁteering components.
Unfortunately the African bush meat markets for poor people also contribute to
the Extinction Crisis.
So where to now with the Covid19 pandemic in our midst?
For humanity our ﬁrst priority will be developing and using protective measures
to halt infection. Immediate social distancing, contact hygiene, infection control,
and travel and contact restrictions mean big and FAST life changes. The best ﬁt
of the evidence and the application of the Precautionary Principle is that we
must take the strongest measures immediately. We might regret an over-
reaction in the future, but we surely will regret an under-reaction. Waiting even a
day or two invites being overwhelmed by a virus that has a proven track record
of undetectable covert invasions soon followed by virulent mass eruptions and
follow-up cluster eruptions.
For detailed and accurate information
Another source of daily updated information is the ABC podcast
called CoronaCast which is available with the ABC Listen App.
The personal and community protective measures we must apply will
signiﬁcantly slow the pace of business as usual, and the slowdown will likely last
for an extended time. Current modelling and estimates are for at least a six
month slow-down to shut-down, and possibly for as long as 18 months as it
takes that long to develop safe vaccines. The worldwide and Australia-wide
slowdowns, social distancing and isolations will provide us all with space for
reﬂections and re-evaluations of our lives individually, socially and as a species.
It will provide us with the space needed to discern those matters and issues that
are important to us, our values, and the responses that work for our individual
and collective futures.
In our re-evaluations and discernments it will help to have the insight that the
Covid19 pandemic is one overwhelming, catastrophic and focusing
consequence of humanity’s blind greed-driven rush into the Extinction Crisis.
What we each discern on a daily to longer term basis will collectively determine
the outcome for us as a species. May it be for fully aware and responsive
respect, care and awe to this fragile Earth and all Life.
Helpful resources from within XR that are worth checking:
Three guiding mantras for now, changes and more are certain
Act and behave as much as I can as if I am infected. It is right to protect others,
and I will probably be protecting myself too.
The new imperatives: stay safe, well, alive and virtually connected. Viruses can’t
transfer through virtual contact.
Be and stay safely distanced
Be and stay virtually well connected
Be and stay well
Be and stay alive.
We have a Rebellion for Life to ﬁnish.