In this series of articles I’m going to describe the underlying factors that have caused covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns and restrictions.
Rather than seeing covid-19 as a sudden event that happened because of some particular cause (ie zoonotic disease accident, lab leak, government/pharma conspiracy to get us all jabbed etc…). I will frame it as a continuation of the various factors that have been causing near misses of pandemic disease outbreaks for decades. I will treat the factors that have played into government responses in the same way. The lockdowns, the distancing, the vaccines, the syndrome covid-19 and the virus SARS-CoV-2 have all been building up to 2020 for decades.
Whatever your motivation, whether a close friend or relative suffered or died, whether your business/work was destroyed by the lockdown restrictions, whether on principal you resent and oppose freedoms being taken away or (as is the case with myself) you are distraught watching a young child forbidden to play with their friends and forced to wear a mask – I aim to show you in this series the ways in which the power to prevent this and reverse where we are are firmly within your grasp.
I will avoid as much as possible attributing motives to others (especially those in positions of power). From my point of view that is not my business. The fact is that if people had no fear around their health, and took responsibility for their impact on the environment they would be near impossible to manipulate in the way that some suggest the powers that be have been doing.
Instead of complaining about our rights being taken away, we need to take responsability for our own actions and their impact on ourselves and the world around us.
We as individuals, every day, to varying degrees, contribute to the situation we are in with covid-19. We do this through:
- our food choices
- our lifestyles
- through the international socio-economic structures we perpetuate with other daily purchases and actions
- our attitudes to life, death, health and health care
- our missapprehensions around the relationship between science and personal experience.
If you’re in any doubt about any of the aforementioned and are willing to listen to the arguments, I’m going to elaborate on all of these in detail in this blog and podcast. None of this is simple – it requires more than just following what mainstream society is doing – and it definitely requires more than assuming that ‘they’ have plans for us and are manipulating us. That kind of thinking – regardless of the information it is based on – is always an abdication of responsability. Much easier to blame Bill Gates than change your own actions.
Specifically, to follow the arguments I’m making, requires some attention to detail, but mostly it requires you to dare to hope that you are in fact personally in control of a small portion of the cause of covid-19 and the measures that have followed. As such YOU are capable of changing things for the better.
Why do pandemics happen?
In this first article I’m going to look at two past pandemics in human populations and two large epidemics in domestic animal populations (one of which spilled dramatically into humans).
Looking at the problem on a very general level, I am simply going to outline three conditions that have been present to varying degrees in every pandemic humanity and indeed every species has experienced throughout recorded history.
For a pandemic to occur you need some combination of:
- a sick source population
- physical movement of the mode of transmission
- a sick destination population
In tackling covid-19 we focussed initially on the second of these factors – by restricting movement, distancing measures, masks, testing etc.
Worse than that we have attempted to avoid dealing with the third of these factors (namely our poor health) by vaccinating the disease away. The blindingly obvious flaw in this approach is that with the risk factors we continue to perpetuate for future variants and future pandemics, we are setting ourselves up for many more costly vaccinations in future.
Having spent hundreds of billions of dollars this time around, I ask you – exactly how many new vaccines can we afford to develop? They did it in a rush this time – exactly how safe or effective will they be if this happens two more times in the next decade?
What is clear looking at all past pandemics is that if we remove these three factors (rather than just one, as we currently are attempting to) then suddenly there is no pandemic, no fear, no restrictions (no excuse for restrictions), no spending our taxes on lockdowns and vaccines.
So let’s take a look at some previous pandemics in human and animal populations and see how this applies.
Species: humans, rats and fleas
Human Deaths: 75,000,000–200,000,000 (estimate for the outbreak in 1300s -thankyou wikipedia!)
Firstly, let’s get this notion out of our heads that a virus suddenly appears out of nowhere and starts killing us.
Virusses are like us in the sense that they evolve. In fact they’ve been with us throughout our evolution.
The same goes for bacteria. In particular let’s talk about Yersinia Pestis the bacteria that causes the Bubonic Plague. Evidence points to this particular bacteria diverging from Yersinia Pseudotuberculosis about 5700-6000 years ago. (read nature magazine for more) The exact details are less important than the idea that this bacteria, and indeed similar bacteria that it evolved from, have been with us since long before the infamous european plague outbreak of the 1300s. In fact, the disease continues to infect us today in some areas.
So something (or some things) changed and it became extremely virulent and spread.
Plague is spread by fleas looking for another host after the rat they just infected (and therefore killed) with plague dies. That host is normally a rat – but if there aren’t many more rats close by but there are humans – then it can be a human. Culling rats can actually result in a surge in cases in humans because rats are no longer available as hosts for the fleas and therefore the virus.
Anyway, for humans to get the plague you need to have an awful lot of humans living in close proximity to both rats and fleas. 13th Century China had these conditions.
In essence what I’m saying is you need to fulfil one of the conditions necessary for a pandemic: a sick source population
In other words there were really awful living conditions for several species. I say ‘really awful’ by the standards of modern day hygiene in the western world – I also say it by the standards of indigenous cultures who have frequently done a lot better than 13th century europe or asia. While hunter-gatherer or primitive agricultural societies may often have had a hard time, there are many reliable reports from the present day in far flung corners of the world where people have regularly lived together low-tech style into their 100s and beyond. These give pause for thought to anyone convinced of the march of progress meaning ever increasing lifespans. Clearly it is a lot more complicated than that. (Look up the Abkhasian, the Kaxinawá, the Hunza… and more)
So in the case of the plague we have rats and fleas and humans all living in close proximity. If you avoid this and have brick houses and pest control (as us lucky modern westerners can afford) then you avoid plague.
For sure in order to have a plague, you often need poor living conditions for some unlucky species. But that’s not enough for a plague pandemic. You see, local ecosystems have a way of dealing with an epidemic – namely, the species infected will eventually become immune – or die. The organisms within that area do not travel enough to meet anyone with substantially less immunity to any given pathogen than their own. The pathogen either kills them all off (and therefore also itself!), they all become immune, or more likely some balance between the two.
Therefore, the second condition to trigger a pandemic is fast transport of the mechanism of disease transmission.
In the case of the plague that came to europe you literally had this in the form of slave ships full of rats and fleas. (black death wikipedia page) At this point the disease landed in europe where you already had huge numbers of both humans and rats and fleas living in close proximity (bbc guide to the plague) AND those humans (and probably more importantly those rats) had immune systems that were completely unfamiliar to this pathogen from the other side of the globe.
In local populations it has been shown that rats gradually develop immunity to a new strain of plague. (biomedcentral) They can do this because their immune systems are evolving defenses against the strain of plague at the same time the strain of plague evolves. I will say again – the virulent form of plague does not appear out of nowhere – it evolves. If the immune systems and their responses in the local area were evolving at the same time then they would have prior warning of what they’re going to have to fight.
With the local rats living with an evolving strain of plague, their immune systems will sometimes ‘get behind’ and a strain of plague will be too much for a lot of them. But then over successive generations of their population, their immune responses will learn and improve and they’ll get back on top of it.
Here’s the point though – if you take a bacteria or virus out of it’s environment by either placing it in another species or literally by picking it up and plonking it down somewhere else on the planet, one of two things regularly happens. Either it is going to find itself unable to survive in the new environment… Or it is going to find an ‘open goal’ of a population of immune systems that simply don’t have an answer for it yet. The process of those immune systems learning will likely involve a huge amount of illness and death.
This is what happened in the case of Europe and the Plague of the 1300s and subsequent outbreaks. The european rat population’s immune systems had not been learning alongside the evolution of this foreign strain of plague bacteria. They therefore had no answer for the plague pathogen and got very ill. When they died the fleas landed on humans and humans got sick.
Humans had an even bigger problem since humans had far less evolutionary history of contact with this virus than rats. The plague virus required a lot of rats and a lot of fleas in close contact with humans in order to make humans sick. This has probably not been a regular occurrence in human evolution.
And here we have the third condition – awful living conditions in a destination population. 13th century europe was a sick destination population – overpopulated with rats, humans and fleas living in close proximity, it could not have been anything else. Plague outbreaks continued to devastate european populations over and over again until brick houses and the separation of rats from humans. Ships also got increasingly less likely to carry rats and fleas across the world. Very likely the rats developed some immunity to the plague too.
Solve the transport of mode of disease transimission and sick destination population and you solve the problem. Although there are areas that still suffer from plague, most of the world does not have a problem with it anymore. We didn’t vaccinate plague, but we removed the causes of the pandemic – if not some of the local epidemics.
1918 Flu pandemic
Deaths: at least 50 million worldwide (stat courtesy of CDC website)
If ever you wanted an example of a source population living under terrible conditions that subsequently travelled the world spreading disease, the 1918 flu pandemic is an extremely clear case.
Overcrowding was a huge factor in the rates of flu (ncbi paper) Soldiers lived in damp, dirty cramped conditions and then travelled home spreading the virus to an unsuspecting home population.
Estimates vary but many millions died.
The source population was clearly in distress, and there was mass transportation of the mechanism for transmission (ie soldier travelling home in huge numbers). However, how sick the destination population was is an interesting question.
The sheer devastation of losing so many of the young generation in a war must have had a negative effect on health. And the sheer proportion of people who had been in the trenches and then travelled could well have overwhelmed the home population with disease even if we were to term them ‘healthy’.
However when we stopped the trench warfare and we stopped moving troops all over the place, our immune systems gradually got on top of the disease.
H1N1 is the classification given to the flu virus that caused the 1918 pandemic. Interestingly this is the same classification – though a different strain – given to the regular seasonal flu that used to kill people every year up until it all but dissapeared upon the arrival of covid-19.
The reason H1N1 has been so common recently relates to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. It has circulated in new strains ever since then. (CDC) So lets take a look at it next.
Species: humans and pigs
Deaths: 151,700 to 575,400 (8 facts on swine flu) in humans estimated worldwide in first year. Since then it effectively became our ‘seasonal flu’ killing every year. It appears to have been all but replaced by coronavirus.
I couldn’t find any stats re the number of deaths in pigs. For sure we probably slaughtered more in biosecurity measures than the virus killed itself.
If you wanted an archetype of a sick source population you wouldn’t go far wrong looking at a CAFO. CAFO stands for ‘concentrated animal feeding operation’. Essential it means an insane number of animals crowded in a small space.
If you can stomach the ethical issus inherent in such operations and you can even (literally) stomach the poor quality meat resulting from them, you should still be concerned about what happens when a virus takes hold in one of these units. Any respiratory virus will spread VERY quickly among these animals.
It will also often spread to the humans who work there. There is evidence, for example, that H1N1 swine flu was significantly more prevalent in workers at these CAFOs around the time of the 2009 outbreak. (ncbi paper)
Biosecurity is a typical modern reaction to a problem like this. Rather than address the actual source of the problem (ie huge numbers of animals in a small confined space that therefore get sick) CAFOs are spending huge amounts of money trying to stop humans infecting animals and vice-versa as well as any animals going in or out being tested so they don’t infect other populations.
Remember our discussion about the immune systems of rats. In order for immune systems in animals to ‘keep up’ with virusses they evolve alongside, they need to experience generations passing naturally in an area. The immunity of the animals evolves along side the virus.
Our modern farming practises of transporting live animals from breeding centers to farms works directly against this. Generations never get to grow up and reproduce alongside the virusses they are expected to fight. We move them and thus give the virus a headstart every time. The virus is evolving, the animals’ immune reactions do not get the opportunity to.
The sickness-or-not of our modern western destination population is a large topic that I will not address at this point. Sickness is a relative term and it seems to me we can do a lot better than we are.
Let us just summarize our short section on swine flu by saying that we are causing this problem with our farming methods and choosing to try to mask it by stopping the virus from travelling. Just stopping the transmissiion method of the virus from travelling is ‘on its own’ not enough. The last decade of swine flu cases every winter in humans should convince you of that.
Species: humans and birds
Deaths: It seems we don’t count birds’ deaths as carefully as humans – so I really couldn’t give you a good figure.
As you may know from my previous blog posts, I very much dislike saying anything contraversial. If I can rely on mainstream ‘facts’ to make a point I will. So it gives me great pleasure to quote the history section on the Wikipedia page related to bird flu:
‘The most widely quoted date for the beginning of recorded history of avian influenza (initially known as fowl plague) was in 1878 when it was differentiated from other diseases that caused high mortality rates in birds.’
Like the plague, bird flu has been with us an awful long time. The things that have changed are a sicker source population and more transport of the mode of transmission (ie moving birds and humans around).
More from wikipedia:
‘In the 1990s, the world’s poultry population grew 76% in developing countries and 23% in developed countries, contributing to the increased prevalence of avian influenza.’
They cite a reference for this too if you want to dig deeper. Let’s just stop and think about this. Literally *millions* of birds have died from this disease or been culled because of it worldwide. Not so many humans – but how long before nature hits on a mutation that kills us in large numbers too?
But again, like the swine flu, instead of actually solving the problem (ie not keeping birds in large numbers in confined spaces) we just deploy the biosecurity and try to halt the spread.
Bird flu, like swine flu is a major pandemic risk. It seems to me that rather than squandering our precious resources on lockdowns, distancing and vaccines, we need to put serious money and energy into halting the evolution and spread of these virusses at their source. That is the farming and our food choices.
Currently, the most commonly accepted theory as to the origin of the recent mutations of SARS-CoV-2 is that it came from bats through civets to live food markets and into human populations.
If this is so, we need to look very carefully at why it would have happened. Firstly, bats’ natural habitats are being destroyed routinely for land to farm and grow animal feed or commodities such as coffee and chocolate.
This means we have a population of bats that has lost its habitat AND is traumatized AND moving.
Then we also have a live food trade market that is digging deeper and deeper into the wild to try to find exotic species. Why are they digging deeper? Well… because we’re destroying the habitats they used to hunt maybe?
As epidemiologist and writer Rob Wallace says in his recent book ‘Dead Epidemiologists – on the origin of covid-19’.
‘As industrial production encroaches on the last of the forest, wild food operations must cut further in to raise their delicacies or raid the last stand’
The result is we’re bringing out of the wild ever more isolated evolutionary branches of virusses and then putting them in contact with animals of all kinds of species and humans in live food markets.
And again, instead of tackling these problems we’re trying to paper over the cracks with a massive effort to make a vaccine and putting huge energy into lockdowns and distancing measures.
We need to clean up our act and solve these problems before something really lethal comes out of our relationship with our environment and our addiction to transporting both livestock and ourselves.
All these pandemic examples show a sick source population and a transport of the mechanism of transmission.
They also show a consistent response on the part of humanity. Rather than trying to solve the initial problem (and prevent it happening again) we try to tighten bio-security and halt the spread. When applied to swine and birds we can perhaps ignore how uncomfortable and ineffective this method is – we can apparently ignore the suffering of pigs and birds. But when we’ve tried to apply it to ourselves with covid, it has become obvious quite how difficult it is to stop a virus moving around.
And if you vaccinate it? It mutates, or worse, another virus becomes virrulent and the cycle starts again. Swine flu, covid-19, what next? Vaccination after-the-fact in the context of pandemics is nothing but firefighting. Any firefighter will tell you its better not to start fires in the first place.
The second point I’d like to make in conclusion is that the issues that are causing pandemics in domestic animal populations are all linked. When you are destroying animal habitats to grow animal feed, you are simultaneously increasing the chances of displaced wildlife transfering a disease to another species and thereby becoming something more virulent and nasty.
At the same time, if you need that much animal feed, you are probably keeping a huge number of animals in close confinement. This is an ideal environment to nurture disease and therefore also a pandemic risk.
And this fact leads me on to the point of the sickness-or-not of the human destination population of the the sars-cov-2 virus. The food we’re eating that results from these pandemic-producing farming systems is a factor in our collective ill-health. Which in turn lowers our resistance to a potential pandemic.
The last century we’ve simultaneously got a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong regarding our health. In the next post in this series I’ll deal with what is wrong with our health care system and approach to health, how our food and lifestyles are damaging us and what we can do about it.
But meanwhile I’d like to leave you with the simple thought that if we were more careful about where our food came from – especially here in the rich western world. Neither the massive increase in bird flu cases, nor swine flu outbreak in humans of 2009, nor covid-19 could have happened. Plain and simple.
It will take a lot of us changing our behaviour to stop this. But ‘us’ starts with ‘u’ right?