Deforestation and Viruses

Beef, soy, palm oil and wood products are four commodities that lead to a push towards deforestation. Besides the known ecological benefits of lush vegetation in such places as tropical rain-forests, scientists are now putting together a revealing, if disturbing scenario. At the edges of the world’s rain-forests deforestation is bringing people in closer contact with animals. Their habitats are being destroyed, they ravage for places to go and eat, and end up closer to humans. A consequence besides the hardship to the animal life is that this closer contact makes humans more susceptible to the viruses these animals or insects carry. Mosquitoes we know carry malaria, but they also hover over monkeys who may carry certain viruses and thus the mosquitoes carry them from the monkeys to humans. Yellow fever can be thus transmitted. Several diseases each have their trajectory, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, for example, can be traced to rodents. Ebola, is another disease that stems from contacts with humans at the forest‘s edge. Corona-virus as we know falls into that category too. The Sunda Pangolin who is able to survive in pockets of forests has contacts with animals such as bats which have contacts with humans, but the Sunda Pangolin, prized for its meat, skin and scales is also poached and illegally brought to Malaysia and Viet Nam and then into China, and there in a Wuhan wet market researchers think the corona-virus began.

Our ignorance too often leads us to ignore the inescapable connections that exist within the planetary system of living things. Still they are there and we ought to do better understanding them.

Robots and the Pandemic

For those wanting to know how the pandemic will change the world, faster use of automation looks to be one way it will. Robots are looking particularly attractive to businesses, manufacturers and investors. That’s not new because robots don’t have to be paid, demand benefits or take sick leave. The virus is increasing interest because robots don’t require protective gear and can’t sneeze on their co workers, Many believe the pandemic is accelerating automation, but it has implications. It won’t happen all at once, and each sector and each company will have to review their needs because some jobs lend themselves better to automation better than others. While it is believed that automation will create some jobs, because that is the pattern of former new innovations, experts also think that in developed countries automation is likely to exacerbate economic inequality. That is because the jobs created will be digital age jobs for a digital age economy, while the large part of the economy is  likely to be based on service economy jobs which do not pay as well as they used to and include as well all those who will be left out.

Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for those who will use robots. Robots get their own kind of viruses and can be hacked, so manufacturers and businesses will have to invest in security. Nevertheless the projection points to a rocky road for too many.

No Prison Visitations

It’s easy to forget the plight of those who are incarcerated during this coronavirus pandemic. They have no masks, no gloves, some may be given bleach or disinfectant for their cells, many not. There are no provisions that I’ve read about at least to protect neither inmates nor their guards although I’ve read that contamination in such a setting could aggravate the public health crisis. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that given the lack of social isolation inmates are like proverbial sitting ducks. There is though one more consequence, the impact on their families and loved ones. As a precaution to not spread the virus or to bring it in, face to face contacts and visitations have been stopped nationwide in state and federal prisons. And since prisons do not have the staff and often the inclination to keep families informed about the welfare or whereabouts of inmates, families are now left wondering what’s going on with their loved ones. In some cases it is not virus related, but whether the cancer treatments were continuing, or whether the COPD of another was being addressed. I have found, as numerous others have too, that the well-being of someone we love can be more important than our own, that the pains of someone we love can be harder to bear than ours. And so in this time of difficulties, when my heart goes out to so many groups such as refugees, detainees, homeless and so many others, I include the anguish of those who have a family member incarcerated.

A Shortage of Condoms

It’s easy to say that a shortage of condoms is not a big deal, but as it turns out that’s not quite so.  Malaysia is on lockdown because of the virus, and that’s where the world’s biggest producer of condoms is.  The 3 factories of Karex Bhd have opened up again but are working at only 50% capacity. They produce condoms for many brands including Durex, also for the UK’s NHS as well as for the UN’s Population Fund. When at capacity, they make 100 million condoms a week, so the closures mean a shortage is looming. It will be a while for the factories to come up to capacity and be able to fill the demand. Factories in China, India and Thailand are also on lockdown as of this writing.  For countries like Africa and the many NGOs through which the condoms are distributed, it will not take a week or a month but may take at least several months before the shortage can be made up, thus creating another kind of humanitarian crisis, forcing people to have children before they are able to care for them, or perhaps be unduly contaminated by diseases. And it’s doubtful the issue of unwanted pregnancies and disease contamination will be confined to Africa and is bound to also manifest closer to home.  A shortage of condoms, inconsequential as it first appears ends up demonstrating how the long arms of the coronavirus reach far and wide, showing us once again how interrelated we are, and how what happens in one distant country can affect all.