"Whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man."Chief Seattle
(Translation of his January, 1854 in his native Lushotseed language)
With the recent suspension of any environmental protection regulations for corporations the insanity denying human-caused climate change expands to not only denying human-caused pandemics but authorizes potential behaviors that will continue the destruction of animal habitats that are responsible for such pandemics, such as deforestation. Deforestation in Europe and Asia throughout the 1300s contributed to the pandemic known as "Black Death" (also known as the bubonic plague). It killed 40 percent of Europe's population between 1327 and 1352. We now know there are a number of infectious diseases associated with deforestation. Besides losing a major carbon sink, it is related to population density and poor land quality as well as to overproduction of livestock. This leads to cruel and crowded conditions for animals that result in pathogenic mutations that lead to pandemics such as avian flu or swine influenza, some for which we have never found a vaccination. Loss of natural habitat is also resulting in the melting of permafrost soils that hold such ancient viruses and will eventually release them back into the world. Without recognizing the importance of generalizable Indigenous social/ecological perspective, "we are doomed" (to quote Noam Chomsky's back-cover endorsement of a book about bringing Indigenous wisdom into mainstream education.)
Novel pathogens such as the 2019 Corona Virus, HIV and Ebola result from a worldview that has lost its sense of a sacred connection to other-than-human creatures, including rivers, land, trees and animals, replacing it with anthropocentrism which has led to hierarchical systems and materialistic greed. This led to colonialism and conquest that transmits such pathogens world-wide. The irony is that our Indigenous ancestors who understood that symbiosis was the foundation of natural systems and that non-human sentience provided wisdom and sustenance were all but wiped out by the new worldview and its plagues. For example, smallpox resulted in killing 90 percent of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The first plague-causing pathogens such as smallpox are believed to have originated in tropical Asia early in the history of animal husbandry and large-scale forest clearing for permanent cropland and human settlements. Crowding and the mixing of people, domestic animals and wildlife, along with a warm humid climate, were as ideal for pathogen evolution, survival and transmission several millennia ago as they are now (Wilcox and Ells).
75% of the infectious pandemics have originated in our fellow creatures due to unnatural relationships with them. Other two-legged, four-legged, flying, crawling, swimming and rooted life forms, as well as the minerals and waters, are telling us to treat them with genuine respect. We must remember how life eats life accordingly, with the ancient wisdom of knowing which ones and how much others we consume. To do otherwise, leads such tragedies as trading in exotic animal parts, trophy hunting, disregard for ecosystem destruction, as well as animal husbandry in general:
75% of infectious diseases have originated in animals"For every human on this planet, there are about ten land animals raised and killed for food at any one time. The intensive confinement of animals for food is directly responsible for the explosion of deadly new strains of bird and swine flu. Animal agriculture is a major driver of deforestation and climate change, which exacerbate human overpopulation, urbanization, international travel and habitat loss, all of which increase disease potential and transmission (Dalton, 2020).
Denial of human behaviors being the cause of our world's ecological imbalance begins with the denial Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). If we remain anthropocentric, dismiss animism, laugh at the Gaia principle, pursue selfish goals without concern for future generations, we or deny human-caused climate change and you will likely be unaware of why loss of our original "Indigenous worldview" is the ultimate cause of the Corona Covid-19 crises. Thus, until we can return to the deeper understanding of our authentic relationship with the sentience that surrounds us, a spirituality that gives significant to non-human egalitarianism, any response to the current pandemic will be superficial and temporary. Even if the virus dissipates eventually for one reason or the other and we are given another chance, we will likely continue our imbalanced ways of seeing our place in the world and the place of other-than-human life beyond a mere utilitarian role. As such, even if we survive this one, we may not survive the next one. As we humans attempt to pull together to address the current pandemic with responsible and compassionate action, recognizing the problematics of fear, fraud and financial motivations, I encourage all to go beyond mere temporary survival efforts. We must get to the source of what is happening. Efforts should not detract us from climate change concerns. To the contrary, if we focus on temperature changes, hurricanes and rising seas and dismiss pandemics as an equally fatal consequence, we will prove "that the world may not yet be prepared to deal with the new health crises." Moreoever, the already struggling keepers of Indigenous wisdom will suffer the greatest from the virus. Communities without running water cannot hand-wash so easily. And if the significance of this loss of Indigenous wisdom on the Corona pandemic has not yet registered, check out what the United Nations extinction report says about its role in reversing our own march into extinction.
About the Author:
Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is a professor in the College of Educational Leadership for Change at Fielding Graduate Universities. He is author of 22 books, including the award-winning, Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education.