[WSMDiscuss] Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists
johnholloway at prodigy.net.mx
Tue Apr 28 22:01:49 CEST 2020
Very many thanks, Jai and Michael, for your responses. I agree with both of you, but I’m left with the need for more.
First, I agree that the article by Rob Wallace is fabulous.
I suppose I’m not thinking so much of the radical fringe, who have long existed and are very important. It’s rather the concerned, committed scientists who are genuinely critical and worried about what is happening, as I imagine the scientists mentioned in the Guardian articles are. Why are they not able to go the extra step and make the connection with capitalism? Fear of loss of funding may be a factor in many cases, but I feel that it’s more than that. Is it that their education has left them unable to make what seems to us an obvious connection? Or do they see the connection but there is some sort of taboo that makes it difficult for them to speak it? A fear, perhaps not of losing funding, but of being ridiculed by their peers? A fear that they might seem too radical to be taken seriously by other scientists?
I don’t know what the answer is. But there is and must be now a huge battle to establish the narrative of the coronavirus. To say “Halt the destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics”, as the scientists do, is already very important. But it would be even more important to say “Halt the capitalist dynamic which causes the destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics”. Now, when everything and everybody is doing somersaults in the air, we have to find a way of breaking taboos. Now or never, perhaps.
From: Michael Gasser <m_g at riseup.net>
Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 12:31 PM
To: Discussion list about emerging world social movement <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>, John Holloway <johnholloway at prodigy.net.mx>, Post Crisis of Civilisation and Alternative Paradigms <crisis-de-civilizacion-y-paradigmas-alternativos at googlegroups.com>, Post Social Movements Riseup <social-movements at lists.riseup.net>, Post CJN! <cjn at lists.riseup.net>, Post RED <radical_ecological_democracy at googlegroups.com>, Post India Climate Justice <indiaclimatejustice at googlegroups.com>, Post Debate <Debate-list at fahamu.org>
Subject: Re: [WSMDiscuss] Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists
Good point, John.
My comments here supplement the ones just posted by Jai.
Scientists represent a relatively privileged group of people wherever they are, and their research often depends on funding from corporations and governments that are in bed with these corporations, so one should not expect many of them to see capitalism as the source of the problem, let alone to argue for getting rid of it.
On the other hand, there is a long tradition within the radical fringes of science and the history of science that recognizes how science itself is political and how the creation of a genuine "science for the people" can only take root in a post-capitalist society. You won't find this perspective in The Guardian, however, where this article appeared. A good place to find activists who approach science from this perspective is Science for the People, and a good source for articles from this perspective is the organization's magazine, relaunched last year.
With respect to the coronavirus itself, one author whose name has appeared on the WSM-discuss list in the last month and who is quite clear about the role capitalism plays in pandemics, is the Marxist epidemiologist Rob Wallace. See his article "Covid-19 and the Circuits of Capital" in Monthly Review.
Science for the People
On 4/28/20 09:16, John Holloway wrote:
Thanks, Jai. Very good articles, but why is it that all these wonderful scientists can never add the last step in the argument and say “the problem is capitalism, we must get rid of it”? They must know. Is the taboo so strong? What is it that stops them from adding this last step? And yet the future of the world depends on it.
From: WSM-Discuss <wsm-discuss-bounces at lists.openspaceforum.net> on behalf of Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net>
Reply-To: Discussion list about emerging world social movement <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>
Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 9:44 AM
To: Post WSMDiscuss <wsm-discuss at lists.openspaceforum.net>, Post Crisis of Civilisation and Alternative Paradigms <crisis-de-civilizacion-y-paradigmas-alternativos at googlegroups.com>, Post Social Movements Riseup <social-movements at lists.riseup.net>, Post CJN! <cjn at lists.riseup.net>, Post RED <radical_ecological_democracy at googlegroups.com>, Post India Climate Justice <indiaclimatejustice at googlegroups.com>, Post Debate <Debate-list at fahamu.org>
Subject: [WSMDiscuss] Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Viruses in movement…, ‘Development’ in movement…, Mother Earth in movement…
· Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists
· 'We did it to ourselves' : Scientist says intrusion into nature led to pandemic
[As we enter the stage – for some - of ‘recovery’ and of ‘going back to normality’, and for others just of survival, this, just as a reminder of the basic message…. and that we also need to look at our continuing present and at the future, and the total interconnectedness of things. It’s about the devastating nature of so-called ‘civilisation’... :
Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists
Only one species is responsible for coronavirus – humans – say world’s leading wildlife experts
Damian Carrington, Environment Editor, The Guardian
The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be followed by even more deadly and destructive disease outbreaks unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted, the world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned.
“There is a single species responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic – us,” they said. “Recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity, particularly our global financial and economic systems that prize economic growth at any cost. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones.”
Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio led the most comprehensive planetary health check ever undertaken, which was published in 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It concluded that human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems.
In an article published on Monday, with Dr Peter Daszak, who is preparing the next IPBES assessment, they write: “Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases.”
These activities cause pandemics by bringing more people into contact and conflict with animals, from which 70% of emerging human diseases originate, they said. Combined with urbanisation and the explosive growth of global air travel, this enabled a harmless virus in Asian bats to bring “untold human suffering and halt economies and societies around the world. This is the human hand in pandemic emergence. Yet [Covid-19] may be only the beginning.”
“Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently, spread more rapidly, have greater economic impact and kill more people if we are not extremely careful about the possible impacts of the choices we make today,” they said.
The scientists said the multitrillion-dollar economic recovery packages being rolled out by governments must be used to strengthen and enforce environmental protection: “It may be politically expedient to relax environmental standards and to prop up industries such as intensive agriculture, airlines, and fossil-fuel-dependent energy sectors, but doing so without requiring urgent and fundamental change essentially subsidises the emergence of future pandemics.”
A global “One Health” approach must also be expanded, they said. “The health of people is intimately connected to the health of wildlife, the health of livestock and the health of the environment. It’s actually one health,” said Daszak.
Furthermore, surveillance programmes and health services need to be properly funded in nations on the frontlines of pandemic risk, they said: “This is not simple altruism – it is vital investment in the interests of all to prevent future global outbreaks.”
Daszak said: “The programmes we’re talking about will cost tens of billions of dollars a year. But if you get one pandemic, even just one a century, that costs trillions, so you still come out with an incredibly good return on investment.
“Business as usual will not work. Business as usual right now for pandemics is waiting for them to emerge and hoping for a vaccine. That’s not a good strategy. We need to deal with the underlying drivers.”
In March, the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen, told the Guardian “nature is sending us a message” with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis. She said failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves.
Last week, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said governments must seize the opportunity to “build back better” after the pandemic by creating more sustainable and resilient societies.
Prof Thomas Lovejoy, at the United Nations Foundation and George Mason University in the US, who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980, said on Saturday: “[The pandemic] is not nature’s revenge; we did it to ourselves.”
“It is the consequence of our persistent and excessive intrusion in nature and the vast illegal wildlife trade, and in particular the wildlife markets, the wet markets, of south Asia and bush meat markets of Africa,” he said. Earlier in April, a major study found that the human impact on wildlife was to blame for the spread of viruses.
In the new article, the biodiversity experts said: “We can emerge from the current crisis stronger and more resilient than ever, [by] choosing actions that protect nature, so that nature can help to protect us.”
'We did it to ourselves' : Scientist says intrusion into nature led to pandemic
Leading US biologist Thomas Lovejoy says to stop future outbreaks we need more respect for natural world
The vast illegal wildlife trade and humanity’s excessive intrusion into nature is to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading US scientist who says “this is not nature’s revenge, we did it to ourselves”.
Scientists are discovering two to four new viruses are created every year as a result of human infringement on the natural world, and any one of those could turn into a pandemic, according to Thomas Lovejoy, who coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980 and is often referred to as the godfather of biodiversity.
“This pandemic is the consequence of our persistent and excessive intrusion in nature and the vast illegal wildlife trade, and in particular, the wildlife markets, the wet markets, of south Asia and bush meat markets of Africa… It’s pretty obvious, it was just a matter of time before something like this was going to happen,” said Lovejoy, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and professor of environment science at George Mason University.
His comments were made to mark the release of a report by the Center for American Progress arguing that the US should step up efforts to combat the wildlife trade to help confront pandemics.
Wet markets are traditional markets selling live animals (farmed and wild) as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, often in unhygienic conditions. They are found all over Africa and Asia, providing sustenance for hundreds of millions of people. The wet market in Wuhan believed to be the source of Covid-19 contained a number of wild animals, including foxes, rats, squirrels, wolf pups and salamanders.
Lovejoy said separating wild animals from farmed animals in markets would significantly lower the risk of disease transmission. This is because there would be fewer new species for viruses to latch on to. “[Domesticated animals] can acquire these viruses, but if that’s all there was in the market, it would really lower the probability of a leak from a wild animal to a domesticated animal.”
He told the Guardian: “The name of the game is reducing certain amounts of activity so the probability of that kind of leap becomes small enough that it’s inconsequential. The big difficulty is that if you just shut them down – which in many ways would be the ideal thing – they will be topped up with black markets, and that’s even harder to deal with because it’s clandestine.”
The pandemic will cost the global economy $1tn this year, according to the World Economic Forum, with vulnerable communities impacted the most, and nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. “This is not nature’s revenge, we did it to ourselves. The solution is to have a much more respectful approach to nature, which includes dealing with climate change and all the rest,” Lovejoy said.
His comments echo those of a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B earlier this month that suggested the underlying cause of the present pandemic was likely to be increased human contact with wildlife.
Experts are divided about how to regulate the vast trade in animals, with many concerned the poorest are most at risk from a crackdown. Urgent action on the wildlife trade is clearly needed, said Dr Amy Dickman, a conservation biologist from the University of Oxford, but she was “alarmed” by calls for indiscriminate bans on the wildlife trade.
She is one of more than 250 signatories of an open letter to the World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Programme saying any transition must contribute to – and not detract from – the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, many of whom depend on wild resources for survival. Other signatories include representatives from the African Wildlife Foundation, the Frankfurt Zoological Society and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The letter reads: “Covid-19 is inflicting unprecedented social and economic costs on countries and communities, with the poor and vulnerable hardest hit. The virus’s suspected links with a Chinese ‘wet market’ has led to calls to ban wet markets and restrict or end the trade, medicinal use and consumption of wildlife. However, indiscriminate bans and restrictions risk being inequitable and ineffective.”
Scientists and NGOs are concerned that over-simplistic and indiscriminate restrictions will exacerbate poverty and inequality, resulting in an increase in criminality. This could accelerate the exploitation and extinction of species in the wild, authors of the letter warn.
“People often seem more willing to point the finger at markets far away, as bans there will not affect their everyday lives – although they will often affect the rights of extremely vulnerable people,” said Dickman.
There are also concerns about the impacts of an outright ban on a number of indigenous populations, such as tribes in Orinoquia and Amazonia, with representatives describing it as an “attack” on their livelihoods.
Mama Mouamfon, who is based in Cameroon and directs an NGO called Fondation Camerounaise de la Terre Vivante (FCTV), said banning the trade would damage livelihoods: “Bush meat is very important for people in the forest because it’s one of the best ways to get animal protein. With this issue of poverty and people living in remote areas, it’s not easy for them to look for good meat,” he said.
“Sometimes people take decisions because they are sitting in an office and are very far from reality. If they knew our reality they would not take that [same] decision.”
Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa
jai.sen at cacim.net
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900)
CURRENT / RECENT publications :
Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press
Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM Press. Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN, MOM1Flipkart, and MOM1AUpFront
Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?. New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press. Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press
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Michael Gasser, Santa Cruz, CA, USA; +1 812 219-2296
Technology & Linguistic Justice; Science for the People; Democratic Socialists of America
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