During these quarantine days, I have been fortunate enough to read lots of interesting articles and books.
I have learned more about power and vulnerability from the incredible Brené Brown. I watched her brilliant interview with the witty Russell Brand and have been reading her beautiful words.
As I’m exploring these articles and books during these slow weeks it couldn’t be more obvious: we live in an exceptional contrasting world. Unlike power and vulnerability which, if practiced consciously, strengthens each other, the contrasting forces in our world weakens the whole and therefore some important issues, such as climate breakdown and health aren’t getting any easier to solve.
So, what’s new, you may think. Maybe it are the walls that are closing in on me, but I feel it is essential to speak up about some of these contrasting forces and the toe-curling hypocrisy it delivers. It must end.
Let me begin with a headline in a Belgian newspaper that caught my eye: “Countries from Angola to Venezuela will face the largest famine ever.” Food-experts are sounding alarmbells about an approaching ’hunger-pandemic’ in countries across the world, that are already weak, poor or in state of war, like Jemen.
It’s very likely that more people will die from the economical impact of Covid-19 than from the virus itself, while the rich ran from the pandemic and escaped to lavish bunkers equipped with special air-filtration systems, swimming pools, movie theaters, saunas and gyms. The harsh inequality between rich and poor is emerging even stronger than before.
A moment later I read about the massive bailouts of airlines. European governments have come to the rescue and granted billions to airlines on the brink due to the pandemic, but without binding environmental conditions. What? I can’t see the ‘green’ in the ‘deal,’ here and I’m not color blind.
The ’Green Deal’ is a plan by the European Commission that aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent. It makes it questionable how serious plans are to fight ‘the other crisis’: the environmental crisis. Or maybe it’s better to speak of one big crisis, for both are inseparable, as some top scientists explain:
‘There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — us. As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity — particularly our global financial and economic systems, based on a limited paradigm that prizes economic growth at any cost. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones,’ top scientists state in respond to the recent multi-trillion-dollar recovery and economic stimulus plans.
Another powerful industry in Europe, livestock farming, nearly collects a fifth of the EU’s total budget — more than € 27bn of taxpayer money — to support livestock farming across Europe, according to research by Greenpeace in 2019. The EU invests billions in the intensive factory farming industry and promotion of consuming meat and dairy, despite its serious environmental and health impact on animals and humans. The Dutch ‘Green Deal’ president has no intentions to change any of these giant subsidies.
The powerful lobby of the biggest polluter has political influence and already knocked on EU’s doors asking for a significant financial injection. In the meantime livestock keeps on growing fast in Europe, using over 63% of arable land to produce animal feed instead of food for people.
In the EU the average person in 2019 consumed 79.8 kg of beef and veal, pork, poultry and sheep meat. The meat consumption of an average American in 2019 was 100.5 kg.
Despite the trend to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet and the numerous (plant-based) alternatives available, figures demonstrate that meat consumption hasn’t shrunk. Yes, there’s a slight decrease in beef and veal consumption, but the consumption of poultry is increasing.
You may be asking, “So, what about the wide range of veggie burgers that are occupying the supermarket shelves?” So far these products are just complementary, they are not actually replacing meat.
When you cycle through desolated parts of Spain and France you see — and smell — huge factory farms, hidden from the public, where cows, pigs and chickens are packed and have miserable lives. In the meantime governments and banks keep on subsidizing these enormous factory farms. Obviously, these bail outs are no signals to reduce Europe’s livestock even though it’s known that intensive industrial factory farming is a major contributor to climate change and a breeding ground for animal diseases and zoonoses (animal disease that transmits to humans), which is dangerous for animal and human health.
The prominent Italian virologist, veterinarian and professor at University of Florida, Ilaria Capua, can’t stress it enough: our human health is inextricably linked to the health of animals and nature. She wrote a book ‘Circular Health’ in which she advocates a ‘One Health Revolution’.
The curve of zoonotic viruses, has risen steeply over the last fifty years. The danger for public health is the uncontrolled trade in wildlife, such as bats, at Asian markets (bats are carriers of many viruses) and intensive animal farming, where viruses have the right circumstances to fully emerge and transmit to humans.
I had read that the coronavirus stems from animals; it could have been transmitted from a bat to humans directly, but it’s also possible that another animal has been in between before the virus transmitted to humans, according to global leading virologists.
Experts, scientists and virologists, basically they all say the same: to prevent future pandemics we need to change how we treat the natural world, including animals in intensive factory farming and to recognize that human, animal, food and environmental health are closely interconnected.
Will governments no longer be deaf to their warnings and will the Covid-19 pandemic present a turning point?
According to top virologist Ilaria Capua, the problem of displacement of animals from their natural habitats is linked to other factors, such as the growth of mega-cities, labour exploitation and inequality. It demands a transformative change of how we have set up our systems; a quick fix won’t do it.
The agricultural and food system, for example, needs to become more sustainable and subsidies need to be reversed to support the smaller, sustainable farmers.
The explosive growth of global air travel needs to be contained. It demands to make brave choices where the money goes to: to people, to health (people, animals, plants and our shared environment: one health) or to big polluting industries.
These political choices should make the impacts on this interconnected world less contrasting. But how can we — as citizens — contribute to these most needed system-changes?
A good start will be to use your vote, support those causes you believe in, use forks over knives, and dare to be different.
“ The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off ” ~ Gloria Steinem.
This article has been edited and published on Elephant Journal. The entire article you can read here !