The coronavirus pandemic as part of a much broader crisis of civilisation
Covid-19 was first identified in November 2019 in the city of Wuhan. It is an infectious disease caused by a virus which is highly likely to have ‘jumped’ from a horseshoe bat to a human. This is widely known and yet it is striking how little is said about the actual implications. What are the impacts for us when humans can contract deadly diseases from animals? Is this normal? Or is it an isolated incident?
Sadly, such cases of viruses being transmitted to humans from vertebrates are certainly no exception. 60% of infectious diseases that affect humans originate from vertebrates. These are known as ‘zoonotic’ viruses, and their numbers rise even further when we look at the origins of emerging infectious diseases: 75% of new pathogens that make humans sick originate in wildlife.
Coronavirus and transgressing planetary boundaries
But how did the virus ‘jump’ from an animal host to a human? To answer this question, we must first take a step back and examine the relationship between animals and humans, as well as the bigger picture of how human beings interact with the natural world. It is significant that 2019, the year of the ‘zoonotic event’ in which the coronavirus crossed the species barrier to infect humans, was also the hottest year on record globally. This immediately calls to mind the issue of ‘planetary boundaries’. These ‘boundaries’ are a concept developed by scientists at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. At present, the ‘boundary’ most keenly observed and considered to be the most pressing is that of global warming. There is very little time left to keep the global temperature below a maximum of 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.