April 2020 Blog: Big Food, Zoonotics and the Climate Crisis.
By Clive Lindley-Jones | April 1, 2020 3:40 pm
We, like just about everyone around the world, have pushed most other topics off the headlines for now, as we adapt to the big changes of the last weeks. Here is our Blog for April, hopefully to inform or just amuse, while you sit things out at home. Remember, there are a decades worth of our blogs on health and related subjects still available to read here.
Who would have guessed at the start of the year, that we would be all confined to our homes across the world?
Helix House consultations go on-line
As you, hopefully, will know by now, after several days of concern and consultation with each other and our various professional/regulating bodies, plus watching the progress of the coronavirus story unfold, we came to the conclusion last week, that it was wisest to close our doors for a while and apply social distancing through working on line as much as is feasible for us.
For the psychotherapists and coaches, this is something they have already being doing before, for the hands-on clinicians, this is more challenging (but in many cases, still possible). However, as you will see here, we do not want to abandon anyone in need but at the same time, especially those of us in the over 70’s bracket, don’t want to, potentially, add to the burden of the NHS should we too, get ill.
Experts and Fake News
Suddenly experts are coming back into vogue again and finally some fake news from Presidents is being taken off social media, even if we can all think of a good few more that need to be taken down!
In his excellent masterpiece How Not to Die Dr. Michael Greger explores all the major causes of death and the patterns of eating associated with a low risk of death for each disease (Spoiler alert, they are have a Whole food Plant Based aspect to them)! He points out, that nearly three quarters of all emerging and re-emerging human diseases, arise from the animal kingdom.
Did you know, that tuberculosis appears to have been originally acquired through the domestication of goats, while measles and smallpox may have arisen from mutant cattle viruses. Similarly, when we domesticated pigs, we got whooping cough, from chickens, typhoid fever, from ducks, influenza and the cold virus from horses.
Many of these diseases, have been around for long enough for us to mostly understand how to defend ourselves from them. But increasingly we are finding new viruses that we as yet, cannot easily handle. While we do not know how this pandemic will change the world, one thing is sure - it will leave its mark, for good or ill.
Ratcheting up the virulence
Capitalism may be the most dynamic system of political economy we had invented, so far, but the dominant, free market type of unfettered and unregulated capitalism that has become the prevailing model in recent decades, especially in the USA and the UK, seems to be, fuelling, the ongoing rise of zoonotic diseases, i.e. diseases transmitted from animals to man. Commenting on this science, journalist Laura Spinney, reminds us that flu viruses that infect animals have periodically spilled over into humans, ever since we domesticated those animals millennia ago:
“But the factory farms that produce our food today rachet up the virulence of those flu viruses”
A playground for animal viruses
She goes on to quote David Morens et al. from their recent New England Journal of Medicine piece where they say:
“We have created a global, human-dominated ecosystem that serves as a playground for the emergence and host-switching of animal viruses.”
Some of these viruses remain confined, while others, such as HIV and Corvid-19, go onto become global.
As we have seen, something of this spill over from animals has been going on for a long time. However, what may be different now is, with the end of new territories to colonise and work to destruction, the globalisation of our food industry is part of the driver for increased pandemics.
The wet markets of Wuhan
All the evidence gathered to date suggests that the now notorious Chinese 'Wet Markets' – places selling live and dead animals for human consumption – provide an opportunity for coronaviruses to jump easily from animals to people. It happened with the Sars-CoV virus in 2002-3 – which was contained before it caused a pandemic – and it has happened again with its close relative, Sars-CoV-2 .
It takes a whole world to create a new virus, not just China by Laura Spinney, The Guardian 20.03.2020
We can't go back to normal
In that way we can see the wet markets of Wuhan as just another example of dysfunctional Big Food off-loading the real costs of their endless drive for shareholder profit onto the rest of us with serious consequences to our health, our economy and lives. Of course, it would be foolish to write off capitalism just yet. But let me end with a small piece from Peter C Baker's excellent recent Long Read in the Guardian considering how the world may emerge from the coronavirus crisis, entitled We can't go back to normal.
"Although Covid-19 is likely the biggest global crisis since the second world war, it is still dwarfed in the long term by climate change. Yet the two problems have suggestive similarities. Both will require unusual levels of global cooperation. Both demand changes in behaviour today in the name of reducing suffering tomorrow. Both problems were long predicted with great certainty by scientists, and have been neglected by governments unable to see beyond the next fiscal quarter’s growth statistics. Accordingly, both will require governments to take drastic action and banish the logic of the marketplace from certain realms of human activity, while simultaneously embracing public investment. In other words, to think of this new level of state intervention as a temporary requirement is to ensure that we continue barrelling down the path to climate disaster".
And one last thing...
Well if you have got this far, you may find this link to a short talk and exercise in Taoist Meditation useful, which is part of an ongoing series of videos on the subject. In a time when many of us may be feeling the pressure of social isolation, this video can help you begin to answer the question "What are you feeling inside?", together with how it affects you (especially if you do not realise it), and how you can begin to deal with it.