Scientists have always differed over the exact definition of what a pandemic is. One thing everyone agrees on, however, is that the word describes the widespread occurrence of disease, in excess of what might normally be expected in a geographical region.
Smallpox, Cholera, Bubonic Plague, and, of course, Influenza are some of the most devastating killers in human history. Outbreaks of these diseases have crossed borders and have properly been defined as pandemic. Before Covid-19, the last pandemic agreed by the scientific community was HIV/AIDS.
Both HIV and Coronavirus are the results of cross-species transmission. HIV is the result of multiple cross-species transmissions of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) naturally infecting African primates whereas it is believed Coronavirus was most likely transmitted from bats. They are very different viruses in terms of contagion and lethality. However, in both cases, early decisions made by government officials and members of the public, affected how the outbreaks became global pandemics.
When the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s, it was ignored by the Reagan administration for years; when they did respond, their first reaction was disgraceful.
In a new documentary by Scott Calonico called When AIDS Was Funny, posted by Vanity Fair, audio of press conferences reveals Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, joking about the HIV/AIDS epidemic — which they called “gay plague” — and laughing about one of the reporters potentially having it. There is no doubt that the lack of political will to deal with the epidemic, driven by the demographic of most people suffering with the virus, contributed to the death toll. Which is over 36 million people globally.
Another similar example – according to Cleve Jones, a longtime HIV and LGBTQ activist – was the cavalier attitude displayed by individuals during the earliest days of both crises toward their chances of contracting the virus. In short, it is not just the responsibility of our governments, it is the responsibility of each of us.
There is reason to be optimistic Peter T. Coleman is a professor of psychology at Columbia University refers to the ‘“common enemy” scenario, in which people begin to look past their differences when faced with a shared external threat. COVID-19 is presenting us with a formidable enemy that will not distinguish between reds and blues, and might provide us with fusion-like energy and a singularity of purpose to help us reset and regroup. During the Blitz, the 56-day Nazi bombing campaign against the Britain, Winston Churchill’s cabinet was amazed and heartened to witness the ascendance of human goodness—altruism, compassion and generosity of spirit and action.”
This is what gives me hope. The convergence of technology and humans is quickly driving us into the fifth industrial revolution: the era of artificial intelligence. … The world is currently deep into the fourth industrial revolution and the premise of each revolution thus far has been that it improved human life.
The coronavirus can be a catalyst for change, how we work and live, already many people will be re-thinking the definition of essential workers, understanding that society exists because we all contribute.
Just as the Wall Street Crash led to The New Deal a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States to help the nation recover.
The post-virus economic recovery could be a green one. Investing in solar farms, electric vehicle infrastructure, and high-speed internet would create a new way forward. “We have a great opportunity now to transition more quickly,” says Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, a former official at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and an expert in how economic measures can be used to reduce climate risks. “This is a moment when we can implement measures to help boost the economy, create jobs, and build climate resilience.”
I had the privilege to see Al Gore interview Thomas L. Friedman who first coined the term “Green New Deal” back in 2007, 13 years on the Coronavirus could be the catalyst needed for countries to adopt this strategy and build a more resilient and sustainable future for us all.
In 2015 more countries came together than ever before, to sign the Paris Agreement, and this gives us hope, but it will not be enough. There is no doubt in the scientific community that more is needed. We have changed the natural balance of our planet. The Coronavirus shows us how fragile this balance of our planet is. If we can come together as a planet to beat Covid-19 then we can come together to save our planet from irreversible climate change.
What is needed is a new collective consciousness a new collective evolution of the human race, more caring, more inclusive, more sustainable.
Dedicated to the people we have lost and all essential workers