Neither Bio Warfare Nor Divine Punishment: Human Greed Caused COVID-19 Pandemic
There are around 7.8 billion humans (homo sapiens) dominating the modern geological epoch known as ‘Anthropocene’, our specie now shapes the destiny of planet Earth, our only home and the future of millions of species that inhabit it.
It is estimated now that around two billion homo sapiens have been placed in a lockdown with millions unemployed and struggling to survive. Humanity is heading towards impending and incessant poverty, hunger, and disease as a result of the worst economic meltdown in modern history since the Great Depression
Across the world, a stay at home order has been put in place on all continents except Antarctica, bringing our daily lives to a standstill. Lockdowns are being enforced to save us from a deadly respiratory virus, ‘ Covid19 or SARS-CoV-2’, also known as coronavirus, that has now claimed more than 279,000 lives worldwide.
What is this deadly virus? Where did it originate from? Was it released by the CIA to bring down the mighty Chinese economy as a leading Pakistani scientist had suggested or is it a punishment from God because of our women, their half sleeves, immodesty, and dancing as suggested by our country’s most revered Islamic scholar recently.
So far the spread of coronavirus has also exposed the flaws that exist within our inequitable world. The rich can shelter themselves, while the poor are unable to socially distance themselves and are exposed to the pernicious pandemic.
Those who were considered unskilled labour such as our public bus drivers, grocery workers and hospital staff have now been declared ‘essential workers’, without whom our lives and our economies cannot function.
This pandemic is our own making. No it wasn’t created at a lab nor is it a divine punishment but it is Nature’s revenge, an expression of her anger against the injustices she has been suffering at the hands of our greed and ignorance. According to Anthony S. Fauci, the lead expert in America, evidence shows the virus behind the pandemic was not created in a lab in China.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” Fauci says.
The latest scientific research suggests that 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases in humans are of zoonotic origin and nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses may exist in wildlife.
We, the humans, are senselessly devouring and destroying the once vast forests that covered the planet, millions of species are now at the risk of going extinct forever. As forests disappear and viruses hop on from wildlife to humans, zoonotic diseases spread, making billions vulnerable and causing over 2 million human deaths each year.
We ought to have learnt that the world’s deadliest diseases ever have all jumped from animals to humans such as the Ebola, MERS, bovine tuberculosis, SARS, HIV, West Nile, and Nipah virus, etc.
Ebola, HIV and West Nile all are the result of devastating African bushmeat trade that is wiping out our cousins the chimpanzees together with pangolins, bats, and or other most commonly poached and traded wild species.
These ‘wet markets’ are incubators of cross-species infections, as many of these exotic species carry zoonotic diseases that have the potential of unleashing a pandemic like the one we are witnessing today. SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, another coronavirus outbreak back in 2012 killed hundreds and is said to have jumped from a civet cat to humans at the wildlife markets of Guangdong Province in Southern China.
The latest deadly virus is said to be a novel coronavirus that had mutated & jumped into humans in Wuhan, China after a helpless bat or maybe a pangolin was poached from the wild only to serve the appetite of people whose newfound wealth enabled them to indulge in this insalubrious consumption of exotic wildlife.
Endangered wildlife is extensively being hunted even in our Pakistan by poachers with impunity. These species are killed and their pictures are posted on social media by those who think they are above the law.
The global wildlife trade is worth in billions combined with rapid urbanization, agricultural intensification, overpopulation & the worsening climate change will only make the spread of new and deadly viruses the new normal.
But there is a silver lining to the pandemic.
There is positive change all around us; an estimated 5% decrease in the global CO2 emissions has been observed, a historic decline that has never been seen before since the industrial revolution. Some of the world’s most polluted cities like Lahore and Delhi already breathing under clearer skies.
The Himalayas were seen for the first time in northern India after decades; polluted cities, rivers, and coastal areas are now self-cleaning themselves. Inquisitive urban wildlife such as monkeys, jackals, deers, and peacocks are reclaiming their stolen habitats – turned into a concrete jungle of highways, parking lots, malls, factories, and cities.
Biodiversity or the diverse wealth of life on earth is at stake now; its loss only aggravates the rise of deadly infections. We are losing more species today than ever before and our human activities are to be blamed for it. A global ban on the illegal trade of wildlife is required and so is the urgent need to implement global, national, and regional efforts to save the last remaining wild habitats and the wildlife they harbour.
Imagine India and Pakistan – the archenemies – working together to save imperilled ecosystems along the Indo-Pak border, the deserts of Thar, or the forests of Kashmir or the mountains of Siachen. Imagine the peace parks waiting to be created to save what’s left of our diminishing natural heritage, home to some of the world’s rarest species such as the majestic great Indian bustards, the striking western tragopans or the almost mythical snow leopards.
It is our species’ sheer ignorance and greed that has caused this pandemic. COVID-19 has taught us that it is easy to start pandemics but difficult to control them. Only history will tell us how best we overcome the grave challenge our species faces today. This pandemic affects us all, and it is likely to alter human history. This is not the first or last pandemic that the humanity has to contend with. There will be more if we do not change our dangerous and deleterious ways.
Muhammad Salman Khan (Sal Khan) is a freelance journalist and LGBTQ+ activist from Pakistan currently based in the US. He tweets at @IamGreenGuru and can be reached through his email at [email protected]