Our food system
At its best, each day lately is full of some degree of uncertainty. Stay-at-home orders. Lockdowns. Economic plunges. None of this is normal. Yet, it oddly shares commonality with a different kind of drawn-out pandemic – climate change. Hurricanes, wildfires, extreme temperature shifts are not normal either. These events, unlike the current coronavirus peak, are spread out geographically and seasonally, with the most ravaged effects often occurring beyond our sight.
What if we could stop the next pandemic before it starts? What if we could curtail climate change before it sweeps us aside? Incidentally, both crises share a common cause: our food system.
Repair our food system, repair our health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that three out of four infectious diseases in people come from animals. That’s 75 percent, of which Covid-19 is one. Others, like SARS, Ebola, swine flu, and bird flu, have similar animal origins.
Until recently, virtually no one was searching for the infamous Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed nearly 50 million people – far more than in World War I. Suddenly, 102 years later, mass Googling began. Why? Like the virus we’re experiencing now, the Spanish Flu originated in an animal – the commonly consumed pig. This is not just a problem of earlier, less medically-advanced eras. In 2009, the swine flu returned, taking between 151,000 and 675,000 lives. Similarly, Covid-19 is suspected to have originated in bats, jumping to humans from another mammal.
While Covid-19 may seem like a foreign disease that we have fallen victim to, it’s just one of many viruses that stem from the extreme confinement of animals being raised for food. In the US alone, nine billion animals are raised each year on factory farms, posing a massive pandemic risk.
Add to that the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, attributed to the overuse of antibiotics to promote the growth of animals raised for food. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant diseases. They have been warning us that zoonotic diseases are transferred from animals to humans through exposure to animals and/or their products. The guidance is clear. We need to end factory farming or be prepared for an unhealthy future of pandemonium.
Repair our food system, repair the planet: Alongside our current crisis looms the seemingly obscure threat of climate change. There have been glimmers of hope that skies and waterways around the world are clearing, as flights and rush hour traffic all but halted. But pausing human activity for a few weeks is not going to stop the tide of climate change.
Excerpted from: ‘What Climate Change and the Coronavirus Have in Common’.