Although the scenario is not that all clear and the impact due to ignorance of essential aspects makes it difficult to direct preventive and care actions, it is now possible to have a general approach to the complexity of the said phenomenon and establish its ties to the sociopolitical, economic and cultural dynamics of contemporary societies.
Read more: The economic challenges after the pandemic.
In this sense, there are a series of articles, essays, evidence, etc. that claim that the pandemic is not a simple natural phenomenon that links the virus to a biological susceptible species. The issue is far deeper than that and says that the pandemic is closely related to agro-industrial production, the traffic of wild animal species, the development of single-crop farming, deforestation, industrial farm management, the crowdedness of food markets, pillage of biodiversity, “ecological imperialism,” and last but not least a systematic destruction of ecosystems2. Added to this are corporate mobility, transportation system speed, city massification, and social inequality.
All the preceding leads to a greater and deeper comprehension of the pandemic, which also demands to delve deeper into its causes and consequences.
In public healthcare is it common to hear the expression “the cause of the causes” to refer both to the causal chain which leads to the occurrence of a phenomenon of interest as well as the social structures that make it possible; it is a manner to refer to the structural causes of the phenomena linked to health and disease. This has allowed not only speaking more amply of the social determinants but also to explore the social structural elements and their relationships and visibilize the need to analyze the determination processes that come into play.
To fully understand how the pandemic emerged we need to become cognizant of how human beings relate with other animal species, and this takes us directly to the food industry and the exploitation of ecosystems. As occurred with other pandemics, the world faces a zoonosis, in other words, infectious diseases transmitted naturally from animals to human beings.
At this point, it is important to mention how the wet market of Wuhan has a tight relationship with the form in which the SARS-Cov-2 infected human beings3. In this market, there is a simultaneous presence of exotic and traditional foods, which is made possible due to the intricate trade networks that operate in the economic geography of modern cities with jungles and forests, where diverse species suffer deep alterations and where exotic pathogens are extracted and that later come into contact with animal species of farms and markets.
As a result, the el SARS-Cov-2 virus, hosted mostly in bats seeks a path to furiously impact the social life of human beings4. A route that allows that from a small market in an emerging economy like China to expand rapidly to the rest of the planet.
As evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace says, “agriculture directed by capital that replaces ecologies provide the exact media by which pathogens may evolve toward the most virulent and infectious phenotypes”5. Therefore it is not fortuitous that other epidemics such as SARS had the same geographical epicenter. But at the same time, it can occur in other regions of the planet such as the case of 2004-2005 avian flu, the 2009 swine flu, and 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) 6.
Some have said that the current production forms accelerate the virulence evolution of pathogens and their transmission, as they stimulate genetic monocultures which place great stress on animal immunological systems, facilitate recurrent infection, provide a continuous supply of susceptible animals, and expedite viruses to leap the inter-species barrier7.
Read more: What is quarantine and how is it determined? (in Spanish)
Therefore, the structural cause for the presence of a viral contagion particle–only recently unknown–, and with a generalized populational susceptibility, absent of previous immunity, due to the lack of vaccines and treatment, for the threatening presence of asymptomatic infected people and the chaotic genetic mutation game, is in the dynamic of a voracious society whose production model is based on dominating the rest of living beings and destroying nature.
As has been said before, the complete understanding of the socio-environmental scope of the pandemic may be traced to the basic relationship between society and nature and criticizing the current civilization model, therefore it is necessary that the action against the pandemic transcends the evident level of the proximate causes, and also establish interventions to help mitigate the situation.
It is essential to impact the most structural causes which make possible the excessive reproduction of the risks and the unnecessary intensification of the threats.
Acting upon the socio-environmental causes of the pandemic demands rethinking the world forged as humanity and assuming the challenge of making a change in civilization. This leads to building a new social paradigm to give precedence to life, nature, and communities to the corporate, mercantile, and even state demands. A new relationship between human beings and the planet, based on interdependency and pluridiversity awareness, mutual care, and creative and solidary action.
2 See, for instance, Svampa M. (2020). “Reflexiones para un mundo post-coronavirus”. https://www.nuso.org/articulo/reflexiones-para-un-mundo-post-coronavirus/; Wallace, R. et al. (2020). “El COVID-19 y los circuitos del capital”, https://www.laizquierdadiario.com/El-COVID-19-y-los-circuitos-del-capital#nh29 y Ramonet, I. (2020). “La pandemia y el sistema-mundo”, https://www.jornada.com.mx/ultimas/mundo/2020/04/25/ante-lo-desconocido-la-pandemia-y-el-sistema-mundo-7878.html
3 See, for instance, Ayuso, S. (2020). “China prohíbe el uso y consumo de animales salvajes”. https://www.elsaltodiario.com/infoanimal/china-prohibe-consumo-animales-salvajes; https://www.latercera.com/que-pasa/noticia/fabrica-de-epidemias-el-siniestro-mercado-de-animales-donde-se-origino-el-coronavirus/984012/ y “El impactante testimonio del primer caso de coronavirus reconocido por China: una vendedora de camarones del mercado de Wuhan”. https://www.infobae.com/america/mundo/2020/04/02/el-impactante-testimonio-del-primer-caso-de-coronavirus-reconocido-por-china-una-vendedora-de-camarones-del-mercado-de-wuhan/
4 See, Chuang (2020). “Contagio social: guerra de clases microbiológica en China”. https://vientosur.info/spip.php?article15743; https://noticiasdelaciencia.com/art/37402/por-que-son-tan-mortales-los-virus-de-murcielagos y https://genotipia.com/genetica_medica_news/origen-coronavirus-sars-cov-2/
5 Wallace, R. (2020). “Agronegocio capitalista y Covid-19: una combinación mortal” https://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Agronegocio-capitalista-y-Covid-19-una-combinacion-mortal
6 See, Influenza porcina: un sistema alimentario que mata. https://www.grain.org/article/entries/190-influenza-porcina-un-sistema-alimentario-que-mata y https://www.latercera.com/que-pasa/noticia/mers-y-sars-las-pandemias-que-alertaron-lo-que-venia/FUGOJDVFTNH2BGWI4QXHFL3JCA/
7 See, Wallace, R. et al. (2020), Svampa, M. (2020) ya referenciadas; Aranda, D. (2020). “La dimensión ecológica de las pandemias”. https://www.mapuexpress.org/2020/03/30/la-dimension-ecologica-de-las-pandemias/?fbclid=IwAR24HWhW828zhgHS7O5xcrNG_0doWL97OS91ooEhqgzoCVqtngCxPELYidc; Houshmar, M. et al. (2012). “Effects of Prebiotic, Protein Level, and Stocking Density on Performance, Immunity, and Stress Indicators of Broilers”. Poultry Science 91(2), 393-401; Atkins, K. et al. (2012). “Vaccination and Reduced Cohort Duration Can Drive Virulence Evolution: Marek’s Disease Virus and Industrialized Agriculture”, Evolution 67(3), 851-60; Pitzer, V. et al. (2016). “High turnover drives prolonged persistence of influenza in managed pig herds”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2016.0138;
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