Cry me a river – The Rabaul Queen disaster
Learning important coronavirus lessons

'The patient Earth is sick....'

EarthPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - While a number of conspiracy theorists, alarmists, doomsayers and social media terrorists have tried to insinuate that there is a link between the coronavirus epidemic and climate change, more level-headed minds have been trying to alert us to the connection between the health of the planet and the health of humanity for some time.

In 1993 the Norwegian physician, Per Fugelli, wrote: "The patient Earth is sick. Global environmental disruptions can have serious consequences for human health. It's time for doctors to give a world diagnosis and advise on treatment."

It is thought that Covid-19 originated in an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. This supports the view that wildlife harbour many viruses and pathogens that can lead to new diseases in humans such as Ebola, SARS and HIV.

SARS, for instance, originally emerged in bats, then hopped into nocturnal mammals called civets before finally infecting humans.

After triggering an outbreak in China, SARS spread to 26 countries, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 770 over the course of two years. 

However, an increasing number of researchers today think that it is humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses.

They say that the invasion of wild landscapes creates conditions for new diseases such as Covid-19.

In March 2014 the medical journal, The Lancet, called for the creation of a movement for planetary health that took into consideration the importance of surrounding natural ecosystems on human health.

“Global health does not fully take into account the natural foundation on which humans live – the planet itself. Nor does it factor in the force and fragility of human civilisations," the journal said.

In 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet launched the concept as the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health.

The new commission explained that planetary health refers to the "achievement of the highest attainable standard of health, wellbeing, and equity worldwide through judicious attention to the human systems – political, economic, and social – that shape the future of humanity and the Earth's natural systems that define the safe environmental limits within which humanity can flourish."

The underlying principle of this approach is that human health depends on "flourishing natural systems and the wise stewardship of those natural systems".

In establishing this principle it was deemed axiomatic that the recognition that human activities, such as energy generation and food production, have led to substantial adverse effects on the Earth's systems.

One group of scientists has identified nine environmental limits that must be maintained to ensure that humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.

However, according to an update in 2015 they noted that at least four of these limits have already been breached and exceeded. They are climate change, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, and land-system change.

They concluded that urgent and transformative actions are needed to address these four aspects to protect present and future generations.

To that end they say immediate attention has to be paid to changing our systems of governance and human organization.

In particular they said that there needs to be a redefinition of prosperity to focus on the enhancement of quality of life and delivery of improved health for all, together with respect for the integrity of natural systems.

In other words they suggested that neo-liberal systems and laissez faire economics need to be abandoned for everyone’s good.

Perhaps the Covid-19 outbreak and the way it is being tackled is an indication that their warnings have been falling on deaf ears.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ian Ritchie

I have no doubt that the health of the planet is inextricably linked to our own individual prosperity, health and life itself.

I think though, we have to temper some extreme viewpoints that cast civilised society to the wolves, simply as a way to appease the earth Gods.

I believe that our societies can endure and flourish, alongside the health of the planet, however there is a need for change.

The interminable debate of how this can be achieved, is deliberately and maliciously hijacked by misinformation, false statistics and outright lies from corporate entities and their paid mouthpieces that are focused entirely on money or perhaps more correctly, their fear of losing money.

Governments with eyes glazed over, are beholden and smitten with these corporate scourges who promise that illusive goal of everlasting growth and prosperity with a cherry on top, being a highly paid corporate position upon retirement from politics. No conflict of interest there, surely!

I personally reject the notion that one particular political ideology is a standout vandal. I have seen both major parties in Australia make equally outrageous statements which essentially take us all as fools.

Of course Morrison and McCormack and their band of dutiful but misguided disciples need no introduction to the stage of environmental bastardry, but to those who may cast off our current esteemed leaders as mere stooges of the neo-liberalism strain of lunacy, I'd like to regale you with an account of a presentation I attended where the left leaning side of Qld politics demonstrated with great efficacy, the succinct art of boot licking support for the burgeoning coal and gas industries.

In 2010, Beyond Zero Emissions and the University of Melbourne presented to all, their much lauded zero carbon Australia, stationary energy plan. http://media.bze.org.au/ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Report_v1.pdf

I say much lauded, as this plan was openly supported by a long list of dignitaries who between them, had extraordinary technical expertise and first hand knowledge within the energy industry.

Tellingly, these specialised dignitaries were not just renewable "kooks" from the alternative minorities of society.

They represented an impressive cross section of the Australian and international scientific and energy communities including a former chief scientist of Australia, the International Energy Agency, professors, Australians of the year, a former Chief of Defence, international renewable energy experts, a Nobel Laureate, a former managing director of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, conservationists, a gaggle of federal and state politicians (including one who later became prime minister) and bizarrely enough a former executive director of the Australian Coal Association.

The names just rolled off. People that were at the time, basically household names. David Suzuki , Malcolm Turnbull, Carmen Lawrence, Ian Lowe, Tim Flannery and list goes on. In short, this report was not one to be treated with disdain. I struggle to think of another plan for sustainable change with such pedigree.

The plan was billed as a 10 year road map to 100% renewable stationary base-load energy for Australia. The plan was detailed and fully costed at $8 per household per week ... under $500 per household per year to move us entirely from polluting coal, oil and gas!

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industries would have appeared to have succeeded in applying a firm set of blinkers to the then Qld premier Anna Bligh, as she happily took to the microphone at the end of this exciting presentation and declared "Good idea, but we as a government cannot ask Queenslanders to pay such a huge increase to their power bills to support this plan" (or something along those lines, I'm regaling from memory).

With that curt and totally unbelievable statement, she dismissed the concept entirely and forever. She did however, continue to jack up power bills and within a short time of unprecedented electricity price hikes, she made that $8 per week per household look bloody attractive!

Coincidentally, I was reminded of that presentation whist browsing the internet during my self-isolation here at home on the Gold Coast and reading this ABC News concept. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-17/what-youd-spend-to-halt-climate-change-and-what-you-could-get/11784704

The average yearly amount across 54 000 respondents, that they would be prepared to spend to fix climate change is $200 (for my household of five, that is $1000 per year, which I rate as not only achievable, but actually on the low side of what I'd be prepared to forgo). The ABC goes on to describe how much "bang for buck" that amount would achieve. The outcomes are astonishing!

The irony is not lost on me, that it is now exactly 10 years since the presentation of the BZE 10 year road map was scoffed at by a so-called political and community leader.

Had Anna Bligh, and the other state and federal leaders of the time, had the courage and foresight to work for the health of "patient Earth", we could have already averted the current climate crisis and be building our civilisations forward, as helpful and respectful residents of this planet rather than cancerous blights at risk of killing the patient, patient.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)