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From: Michael Roberts Blog <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sun, Sep 6, 2020 at 4:31 AM
Subject: [New post] Pandemics: prevention before cure


michael roberts posted: "There is now firm evidence of a strong link
between environmental destruction and the increased emergence of deadly new
diseases such as Covid-19.  Indeed, increasing numbers of deadly new
pandemics will afflict the planet if levels of deforestation and b"
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Michael Roberts Blog*
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Pandemics:
prevention before cure
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by
michael roberts
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There is now firm evidence of a strong link between environmental
destruction and the increased emergence of deadly new diseases such as
Covid-19.  Indeed, increasing numbers of deadly new pandemics will afflict
the planet if levels of deforestation and biodiversity loss continue at
their current catastrophic rates.  That is the conclusion of scientists who
will present reports at the end of this month to the United Nations Summit
on Biodiversity
<https://www.un.org/pga/74/united-nations-summit-on-biodiversity/> under
the theme of “*Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development*.”

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There delegates will hear that rampant deforestation, uncontrolled
expansion of farming and the building of mines in remote regions – as well
as the exploitation of wild animals as sources of food, traditional
medicines and exotic pets – are creating a “perfect storm” for the
spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.

Almost a third of all emerging diseases have originated through the process
of land use change. As a result, five or six new epidemics a year could
soon affect Earth’s population.  *“There are now a whole raft of activities
– illegal logging, clearing and mining – with associated international
trades in bushmeat and exotic pets that have created this crisis,”* says
Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation at Duke University. *“In the case of
Covid-19, it has cost the world trillions of dollars and already killed
almost a million people, so clearly urgent action is needed.”*

It is estimated that tens of millions of hectares of rainforest and other
wild environments are being bulldozed every year to cultivate palm trees,
farm cattle, extract oil and provide access to mines and mineral deposits.

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This leads to the widespread destruction of vegetation and wildlife that
are hosts to countless species of viruses and bacteria, most unknown to
science. Those microbes can then accidentally infect new hosts, such as
humans and domestic livestock.  Such events are known as spillovers.
Crucially, if viruses thrive in their new human hosts they can infect other
individuals. This is known as transmission and the result can be a new,
emerging disease.

Zoologist David Redding, of University College London explains what happens
in places where trees are being cleared, mosaics of fields, created around
farms, appear in the landscape interspersed with parcels of old forest. *“This
increases the interface between the wild and the cultivated. Bats, rodents
and other pests carrying strange new viruses come from surviving clumps of
forests and infect farm animals – who then pass on these infections to
humans.”*

In the past many outbreaks of new diseases remained in contained areas.
However, the development of cheap air travel has changed that picture and
diseases can appear across the globe before scientists have fully realised
what is happening. *“The onward transmission of a new disease is also
another really important element in the pandemic story,”* said Professor
James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University. “*Consider
the swine flu pandemic. We flew that around the world several times before
we realised what was going on. Global connectivity has allowed – and is
still allowing – Covid-19 to be transmitted to just about every country on
Earth.”*

In a paper published in *Science* last month
<https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6502/379>, Pimm, Dobson and
other scientists and economists propose setting up a programme to monitor
wildlife, reduce spillovers, end the wildlife meat trade and reduce
deforestation.

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They estimate that such a scheme could cost more than $20bn a year, a price
tag that is dwarfed by the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wiped
trillions of dollars from national economies round the world. Spending of
about $260bn over 10 years would substantially reduce the risks of another
pandemic on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, the researchers
estimate, which is just 2% of the estimated $11.5tn costs of Covid-19 to
the world economy. Furthermore, the spending on wildlife and forest
protection would be almost cancelled out by another benefit of the action:
cutting the carbon dioxide emissions driving the climate crisis.

In the report, several estimates of the effectiveness and cost of
strategies to reduce tropical deforestation are made.  At an annual cost of
$9.6 billion, direct forest-protection payments to outcompete deforestation
economically could achieve a 40% reduction in areas at highest risk for
virus spillover.

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A recent report
<http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Future_Of_Nature_And_Business_2020.pdf>,
from the New Nature Economy project, published by the WEF, says: *“We are
reaching irreversible tipping points for nature and climate. If recovery
efforts do not address the looming planetary crises, a critical window of
opportunity to avoid their worst impact will be irreversibly lost." *

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And yet the cost of action to deal with these impending disasters would be
not much more than the recent fiscal spending by governments to save jobs
and businesses from the current COVId-19 pandemic.

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What is not mentioned in any of  these reports is that is the drive for
profit under the capitalist mode of production which breaks the necessary
connection between human activity and nature.  It is not ‘illegal logging,
clearing and mining’ or wildlife markets that are the problems. They are
the symptoms of the expansion of productive forces under capitalism.
Logging and forest burning and clearing are done not only by large
corporations, but also by many poor farmers unable to make a living as the
land and technology is mainly owned and exploited by big business.  It is
the very uneven development of capitalist accumulation that is the
fundamental cause.

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Over 140 years ago, Friedrich Engels noted how the private ownership of the
land, the drive for profit and the degradation of nature go hand in hand. *“To
make earth an object of huckstering — the earth which is our one and all,
the first condition of our existence — was the last step towards making
oneself an object of huckstering. It was and is to this very day an
immorality surpassed only by the immorality of self-alienation. And the
original appropriation — the monopolization of the earth by a few, the
exclusion of the rest from that which is the condition of their life —
yields nothing in immorality to the subsequent huckstering of the earth.” *Once
the earth becomes commodified by capital, it is subject to just as much
exploitation as labour.

Yes, science helps us to understand what is happening.  As Engels said, *“
with every day that passes we are learning to understand these laws more
correctly and getting to know both the more immediate and the more remote
consequences of our interference with the traditional course of nature. …
But the more this happens, the more will men not only feel, but also know,
their unity with nature, and thus the more impossible will become the
senseless and antinatural idea of a contradiction between mind and matter,
man and nature, soul and body."   *

We need the work of climate change and environments scientists because “*by
collecting and analyzing the historical material, we are gradually learning
to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote, social effects of our
productive activity, and so the possibility is afforded us of mastering and
controlling these effects as well.” (*Engels).

But the reports of the scientists at the UN meeting and others and making
people aware are not enough.  The Extinction Rebellion recently issued a
statement saying that *“we are not a socialist movement.  We do not trust
any single ideology, we trust the people to find the best future for us
all.  A banner saying socialism or extinction does not represent us.”*
Well, maybe Extinction Rebellion does not recognise that the battle to save
the planet is connected to replacing the capitalist mode of production.
But ER’s view contrasts, it seems, from that of climate activist Greta
Thubergh, who recently said that *"The climate and ecological crisis cannot
be solved within today's political and economic systems. That isn't an
opinion. That's a fact."*

As Engels said*: “To carry out this control requires something more than
mere knowledge.” *Science is not enough. *“It requires a complete
revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and with it of our
whole contemporary social order."*
*michael roberts
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| September 6, 2020 at 9:29 am | Categories: capitalism
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economics
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marxism
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