Monday, 4th May, 2020
Alfred E. Baldacchino
Coronavirus is lesson that the Earth does not need us
Hello coronavirus, or should one say COVID-19? You have spread and conquered the planet! Indeed you have outclassed SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola, all linked to animal food sources or wet markets.
You have infected over three million people and claimed over a quarter of a million victims.
Without a doubt you are familiar with wet markets, where animals are traded in unsanitary conditions, an adequate habitat enabling viruses to undergo fast mutations. The damp floors constantly hosed by vendors to clean food scraps of species they sell: from fresh vegetables and processed meats to live animals, consisting of fish, poultry, and also crocodiles, snakes, lizards, bats, turtles, dogs, pigs, civets, birds, badgers, pangolins, toads and more, all waiting to be slaughtered. It was pointed out, since 2007, that: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.” At that time, you were still within your natural confines.
You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence. Many of the animals on sale at wet markets never have had the possibility to come in contact with each other in the wild where viruses would coexist. The ecosystem does not allow this.
You must be thankful to mankind’s intelligence and to his cultural pride for your existence
But to satisfy an urge (mainly commercial), man brought them over from everywhere to be sold and eaten. Crammed in small cages, together or near each other, the unlikely transmission of inter species disease became possible, more so in such an unsanitary and unhygienic environment. A perfect place for viruses to jump on to other animals as intermediates, or directly to humans who crowd the stalls in such close contacts, in search of food?
It is documented that vendors often slaughter animals in front of customers, skinning them in front of shoppers, aerosolising things in the process. You know pretty well how popular beliefs of the use of animals to cure common ailments is heavily capitalised upon, mainly for commercial reasons.
One would assume that you will not tell us about your origin. Some assume that bats and their faeces could have been your parental source considering that your virus type share 96 per cent of genetic code found commonly in Chinese bat populations. Incidentally even SARS has, as a point of origin, direct relations to bats, also sold for food in such wet markets.
You have incredibly reached heights which mankind, because of invested interests, can never reach. In the few months of your existence you have rendered sophisticated military warfare to children’s toys. You have grounded almost all airplanes, garaged most of transport vehicles to the extent that this has had a significant effect on climate and the environment.
Such is your invisible strength that you have also succeeded in isolating man indoors, making him experience the fearful feeling of stressed animals in circuses and in zoos, caged for commercial purposes.
You have also echoed, and proved correct, the words of one religious leader on our planet, Pope Francis, who emphasised that: “Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain. As a result, what is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of the deified market, which becomes the only rule”.
The mentality that man is not part of the ecosystem is making him pay through his nose. This mentality has given rise to your presence.
The message that you are delivering with every victim you take, is very clear: Mother Earth does not have any need for anybody to save her, not even the self-proclaimed most intelligent being. If this message is heeded or not is still too early to bet upon.
Alfred Baldacchino is former MEPA assistant director