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Looking at the Covid-19 Pandemics Through the Deep Ecology Lense.

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MariaInes is a freelancer who writes about social matters from different perspectives.

deep-ecology-and-coronavirus

What is Deep Ecology?

Deep ecology is a concept that encapsulates a mindset towards the environment. It was coined by Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher, in 1973. By deep ecology, he meant the exploration of environmental challenges using deep questioning of their roots. He mentioned that shallow ecology looks for solutions for the environmental problems in technology without changing the approach towards the use of Earth resources.

Deep ecology, goes beyond as it proposes that all ecosystems have their own intrinsic values and rights, which do not depend on the appraisal of human beings (Drengson, 2012). In other words, humans are as valuable as any other piece of an ecosystem, and although recognizes that we need resources for our development, it does not support overexploitation and excessive meddling with the environment. In fact, it supports the study of the aboriginal people's relationship with nature and its use for social and economical development.

Deep ecology, opposes grand scale industrial activities that promote vain consumerism in advanced societies and menace the ecological equilibrium of ecosystems. It wants to create awareness that our selfish behavior can lead to the destruction of the very same conditions we need to live here on Earth. Drengson (2012) notes that the movement under this concept is not against humanity and its value, but against shallow anthropocentrism, where every human desire becomes more important than the equilibrium of the ecosystems, where other creatures coexist.

Origins of the Covid-19 Virus

Currently, there are two theories to explain the origin of the Covid-19 virus. The first is related directly to a zoonotic link. A large body of scientific studies establishes that the new virus, SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), "evolved directly or indirectly from a β-coronavirus in the sarbecovirus (SARS-like virus) group that naturally infect bats and pangolins in Asia and Southeast Asia" (Morens et al, 2020).

The American author, David Quammen, who has devoted his career to the study of zoonotic viruses, thinks that the origin of the Covid-19 was not in the Wuhan market, but that someone came probably from the South of China, and created a superspread event there.

He notes that the confluence of several factors enables the spread of these viruses, like for example, the increase of human interaction with wild animals in the quest to exploit resources in their natural habitats. He also says that the combination of overpopulation with modern consumerism is an enabler for the exploitation of natural resources and the perturbation of the wild animal's habitats. Both factors are linked to perpetuate this situation.

An interesting fact is that families with fewer children in developed countries spend significatively more resources than numerous families in developing countries. These comparison also applies to rural and urban settings. So, the problem appears more related to the levels of consummerism than to overpopulation, however, the latter also produces stress to the environment.

On the other hand, globalization, international flights, and the concentration of inhabitants in cities make easier the spread of a highly contagious virus. Bill Gates, mentioned in 2015, that the ebola outbreak did not spread beyond rural Africa, because this is not a international hub. Wuhan is a different case. It is a city with a lot of national and international connections. It was the perfect ground to start a pandemic outbreak.


Possible vectors of COVID-19 transmission.

Possible vectors of COVID-19 transmission.

The second theory contemplates that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which hosts a biosafety level 4 laboratory. This institute researches actively coronaviruses in collaboration with other institutes around the world.

The president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, urged to investigate this plausible origin. Although it is unlikely that the virus was created in a laboratory, it seems that known coronaviruses could have been manipulated, to make them stronger for scientific research.

This process is denominated "Gain of Function (GOF)" and it was restricted in the United States by President Barack Obama in 2014 and in 2017 by Donald Trump. However, it seems that the US kept funding these kinds of experiments overseas, including in China. (Stacey, 2021)

The GOF experiments represent a very high risk, as its objective is to create viruses that are more lethal, more contagious, and more resistant than the average. The scientific community calls for more control for these experiments.

In a recent study Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen say to have found evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19, was artificially manipulated in the sequence, specifically, the researchers observe that the spike proteins of the virus contain inserted sections.

Researchers on the Covid-19 virus are asking for medical reports on the Wuhan laboratory workers before the outbreak, to help to solve the mystery. However, Chinese scientists deny this possibility and also ask for more investigation on other labs in the world where the US has a relationship with other laboratories to develop these experiments. They argue that there is evidence of the circulation of the virus in other parts of the world before the outbreak in China.

Even if this theory falls away, it is a good opportunity to ask if these laboratories should be within big cities, and not in more controlled environments.

Biosafety level 4 labs (BSL-4), the highest level of biosafety designed to work with agents that could easily be aerosol-transmitted within the laboratory and cause severe to fatal disease in humans for which there are no vaccinations. (Wikipedia)

Biosafety level 4 labs (BSL-4), the highest level of biosafety designed to work with agents that could easily be aerosol-transmitted within the laboratory and cause severe to fatal disease in humans for which there are no vaccinations. (Wikipedia)

Our Responsibility

Deep ecology holds that humans are not the center of the Universe and that we must acknowledge the right of ecosystems to exist without our interference.

It is important to note, that humans are not apart nor outside ecosystems. We are part of them and share the right to live within them. Although deep ecology, does not approve of the idea that we must take care of the environment because it is beneficial for humans, it is a fact that if the environmental conditions change drastically on Earth, people are going to suffer the consequences.

Wild animals are viruses reservoirs. Rural and native people have been hunting them and eating their meat for a long ago. The risk is there. It is difficult to change a cultural habit, and even more where there are not many other food sources. The risk can not be fully eliminated.

For deep ecology, on one hand, this could be seen as a natural dynamic. However, when the contact with wild animals increases because of economic reasons, such as selling them in big city wet markers, deep ecology would see this as an unbalance generated by a selfish human behavior at the expense of natural resources overexploitation.

Many argue that technology and science will sort out all the consequences of environmental abuse. However, if the second theory is the origin of the current pandemics, also proves that ethical boundaries are also needed in research to protect humans and ecosystems. Science will defeat its purpose if in the end destroys us or the environment that we need to live in, in fact from the "deep ecology viewpoint, the environmental challenges come from crises in society and science itself" (Capra in Middleton, 2013).

This is the reason why deep ecology proposes to grant rights to nature. It is not enough to have a technological solution that solves our challenges if the rest of the ecosystems suffer in vain.

deep-ecology-and-coronavirus

Final Remark

Deep ecology is more a phylosophical tool than a science. It invites us to explore our relationship with nature and our impact on Earth ecosystems. At first glace, it looks as it moves humans to an external position as if we do not belong to the ecosystem, but in the exploration, it is impossible not to understand that by destroying nature, we are destroying ourselves. The current pandemics proved how globalization and our current life style can exarcebate the crisis.

Science and technology can certainly help to remediate the damage, but it should not be relied on, to keep abusing the environment. Regulations and ethics on research are needed, as well, to avoid that, instead of helping, serves to destroy us.

References

Covid-19 lab-leak theory puts Wuhan research in spotlight. The Finacial Times. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.ft.com/content/7fef48f1-88a4-48f7-8263-c50384643b7f

Dregson, A (2012). Some Thought on the Deep Ecology Movement. http://www.deepecology.org/deepecology.htm

Norwegian virologist claims coronavirus is 'chimera' made in Chinese lab. Taiwan news. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3945654

Middleton, N (2013). The Global Casino. Routledge. London

Morens DM, Breman JG, Calisher CH, Doherty PC, Hahn BH, Keusch GT, Kramer LD, LeDuc JW, Monath TP, Taubenberger JK. The Origin of COVID-19 and Why It Matters. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Sep;103(3):955-959. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.20-0849. PMID: 32700664; PMCID: PMC7470595.

Tiwari R, Dhama K, Sharun K, Iqbal Yatoo M, Malik YS, Singh R, Michalak I, Sah R, Bonilla-Aldana DK, Rodriguez-Morales AJ. COVID-19: animals, veterinary and zoonotic links. Vet Q. 2020 Dec;40(1):169-182. doi: 10.1080/01652176.2020.1766725. PMID: 32393111; PMCID: PMC7755411.

© 2021 MariaInes

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