Without Us, Covid-19 Would Be a Big Fat Nothing
We've learned a lot about Covid-19. Compared to other viruses it's easily transmissible. It's very contagious, easily spread. It's also pretty lethal, far worse than seasonal influenza, which makes it disruptive to highly organized societies. And so we need vaccines, periodic lockdowns, and measures such as masks and social distancing.
But what has stood human civilization on its ear over the past year is not so much the virus as what its host, mankind, has done with it. Without us, Covid-19 would be nothing. We have unlocked its lethality. We have transformed it into a global plague.
We have recklessly overpopulated the planet. That has caused us to intrude on wilderness or what remains of it. We used to hype the Amazon rainforest as a source of unknown plants and organisms from which we would be able to develop all manner of new products, especially medicines. Then, as our numbers swelled and demand for products such as palm oil soared, we began deforesting ancient wilderness to clear the land for plantations. We entered regions of contagions we had not previously encountered at least not in any great numbers.
As mankind grew we saw a migration from rural regions into cities that are today megacities. Cities so congested that the air itself can be toxic. Cities so congested that easily transmissible diseases can race through densely packed populations like wildfire.
Perhaps the greatest man-made contributing factor is the global economy. When people traveled at the "speed of sail," viral contagions usually burned themselves out before the ship reached its destination port. Vessels that had cholera, for example, would not be permitted to land, forced to anchor offshore to allow the disease to take its course. Today, however, viruses travel vast distances at high-subsonic speeds, delivering the infected to distant cities in other lands while the disease may still be in the incubation phase before any symptoms are evident.
Covid 19 didn't have to be a global nightmare. That was mainly our doing.