Monday, 2 March 2020

Environment Monday - Is the Corona Virus outbreak a symptom of a sick planet?

Yesterday, along with 82,000 other people I attended Wembley to watch the Carabao Cup final. I went with my son and my nephew and we made a proper day of it. We met at The Railway pub in West Hampstead and after a couple of beers, made our way to Wembley. There was some friendly banter on the way with Aston Villa fans. I've done this journey a few times in the last few years as a City fan, but this time there was a subtly different atmosphere. There was a good dose of Gallows humour all along the way. At the Railway, when I went to the loo, a Mancunian wit said "is it just me or is this first time I've seen a queue in a pub to wash your hands". Another commented to me in the queue, "Just think, this might be the last Wembley final for a very long time". He wasn't referring to the fair play problems of City. The mood was perhaps more celebratory than any of the previous League cup finals. The phrase "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" came to mind.

Don't get me wrong, no one was panicking. Apart from the queue to wash hands after using the loo, it was business as usual. But people are aware that there may be a storm brewing. There was much wit about it being a terrible shame if Liverpool's long wait for a Premiership trophy was derailed by the virus. Of course, the fact we'd all be dead would take the edge off it, as another Mancunian wag commented. 

I was in footie fan mode, not looking for material for my blog. However when I woke up this morning, with a slightly sore head, I realised that there are very real worries about the outbreak. Putting the worries to one side and I would advise that given the apparent low mortality rate, there are wider questions we need to look. Whilst this pandemic seems to pose little risk to healthy people, sooner or later it seems inevitable that there will be an outbreak of something that will not be quite so manageable. What is worrying is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a good understanding of what the likely route of  this will be. 

The wider question is whether we are making ourselves, as a species, ever more susceptible to such outbreaks. There are several ways. Firstly antibiotic resistance is a massive threat. It is likely that this will result in more deaths in the developed world than the Corona virus. The main cause of this is over prescription of anti biotics and the routine use of them in farming. Bacteria adapt and develop resistance to anti biotics. They are used in farming as it is cheaper than proper animal husbandry. That we are looking at allowing a trade deal with the US, which uses all manner of such practices to make farming profitable and economically desirable, shows that we have a reckless government. Salmonella rates in the US are far higher than the UK. This is for no other reason than the UK has higher hygene standards. When we hear talk of US chlorinated chicken, this process is used as their husbandry methods mean it is required to make their chicken safe. We prefer better husbandry of the animals.

Then there are the various ebola type diseases inn West Africa. These have thrived due to poverty and a lack of education. Given the risks, if these diseases morph into something more infectious, this really should be a top priority. It would also be a very right, just and humane thing to do. As a society, I believe we are criminally negligent in ignoring this. 

Another problem, very much a first world, 21st century problem, are the anti vaccination lobby. These do not understand the science of immunology. They lack the social responsibility to care for the fact that they are creating a well of people who are ripe for epidemics of diseases that were previous thought eradicated. Sadly many of these watch YouTube videos that convince them that there are risks and conspiracies, ignoring the fact that diseases such as diptheria, which decimated my mothers generation in London, have been nigh on eradicated by vaccination. This is close to my heart, as my mother caught the disease aged 13 and nearly died. Just about everyone else who was admitted with her did not make it. Shortly before she died, I was amazed to hear a dressing down she gave someone who she heard saying they would not be giving their kids MMR. My eldest brother had Polio as a teenager, which has left him with a permanent slight limp. Why would anyone take such a risk. The problem is not so much that these idiots kill themselves, but they put their children at risk and also put young children who have not been immunised at risk of the epidemic they are asking for. 

Can we draw the conclusion that we are making the very planet we inhabit sick? We poison water supplies, cram animals together in confined spaces, pump them full of drugs and then spread the product of this across the globe. Corona virus should be a wake up call. What will happen is that once the panic dies down, all the lessons that should be learned will be quietly forgotten, until the next scare. How bad will it have to be before we take up and take notice and actually deal with the root causes that are causing these situations.

I end this with a message from The Stranglers from 1977. Something better change

No comments: