When extractivism is combined with the climate crisis, they seem to "open Pandora's box" to the emergence of old and new global diseases. Like the well-known dengue that is here to stay, hand in hand with global warming. On the other hand, we must not forget the war capacity to destroy itself and to annihilate or extinguish wildlife animals of the human species. This bellicosity, innate aggressiveness or whatever we want to call it, is an ancestral condition of our alienated society. This is probably why we use military terms for almost anything, for example "the war against viruses", "the invisible enemy", "fighting a disease" and many more.
In this “friend-enemy”, “good-bad” paradigm, terms such as “remedies” are used to refer to powerful and dangerous pesticides that “fight” “weeds”. This reductionist conception of the human organism, nature and health on a battlefield is directly linked to the “market” strategies of the global pharmaceutical industry, the chemical, biotechnology or agrochemical industries, which simply see them all as “ business objects ”.
Extractivisms and academia
Unfortunately, in many cases from the academic cloisters (and what is worse, even from the Public University itself) this discourse is also supported by the same university authorities in order to obtain some miserable subsidy, or for fear of questioning a status quo already established in favor of the large corporations with which they are in collusion. The same occurs with the apparent "refusal" to recognize that by encouraging and promoting extractivist models linked to biotech agribusiness, mega-mining and fracking, it is also contributing to environmental destruction, the climate crisis and the increase in social inequality.
Focusing on "extractivism" as a process of indiscriminate exploitation of common goods, "natural resources" for economists or "experts" in environmental sciences, it can be very easily related to "pandemics" or diseases that spread to different countries and continents. For example, reviewing the statistics of the last few years we will probably find that the last agricultural “revolutions” (“green” in the 60` and of “genetically modified organisms” in the 90`) have had a huge impact on the rate of land clearing. of the entire planet, caused losses of biological diversity, landscape simplification, climate change, pollution and according to experts, all these factors contribute greatly to the emergence of new epidemics.
Another direct consequence of industrialized agriculture is that by occupying large territories, it tends to confine farm animals in the famous “feedlot”. Precisely these forms of animal overcrowding, mainly chickens, pigs and cattle, loaded with hormones, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories so that they can withstand subhuman living conditions and outside any ethical animal regulation. Little is known in our country about the environmental or human health impacts of this agribusiness. However, we could recall that in 2017 Dr. Paola Peltzer and a team of researchers from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral studied for the first time for South America the environmental effects of the well-known “chicken beds” in chicken farms in Crespo (Entre Ríos ).
It should be noted that between 65 and 70% of the country's poultry farms are concentrated in that region. These "chicken beds" or "poultrylitter" are a mixture of sawdust, rice husk and shavings. And even the very corpses of dead chickens are part of this compost where the animals permanently excrete numerous drugs such as analgesics, antibiotics and hormones that will become, once indiscriminately released into the environment as fertilizers, endocrine disrupting environmental hazards.
In the case of antibiotics, they are strongly linked to a new pandemic "great global threat" of the future, "bacterial resistance." FAO anticipates that "10 million people could die before 2050 due to increased resistance to antibiotics." Nor should we forget that these "industrialized meat farms" are the breeding ground for the emergence of well-known diseases, some pandemics, such as Asian avian flu, and swine flu (or H1N1), also SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
Natural health, human health
The connection between human health, animal health and the environment is indisputable. For this reason, we would have to pay close attention to recent news (in the midst of the global COVID19 pandemic originating in China) on "Agribusiness" incidentally promoted by the veterinary pharmaceutical industry Biogenesis Bagó, which announce a productive megaproject for intensive breeding in Argentina of 100 million pigs that this Asian country needs.
We have to remember that Asia is one of the regions of the world with very high rates of deforestation, with a loss of 30% of the forest area in the last 40 years. That together with the increase in human intrusion into wildlife habitats and the overcrowding of different wild species in markets and wet farms, facilitate interspecies transmission. So it came as no surprise that in 2003 there was a SARS epidemic that caused 774 deaths among 8,098 cases in more than 30 countries. Large populations of the Chinese horseshoe bat (Rhinolophussinicus), which may have transmitted the virus to other game mammals, including Himalayan palm civets (Pagumalarvata), raccoon dogs (Nyctereutesprocyonoides) and Chinese ferret, exist as ancestral natural reservoirs of coronavirus Badgers (Melogalemoschata) in wildlife markets in southern China.
For this reason, for years ecoepidemiologists from China and other parts of the world have warned that due to deforestation, increased human intrusion into wildlife habitats plus the overcrowding of different species of wildlife in markets and wet farms would facilitate the interspecies transmission of coronavirus. In fact, in 2018 Polish and French scientists published a risk estimate of 31% of emerging diseases associated with the transmission of coronavirus from bats to humans in Asia.
With Monday's newspaper, we know that it is the most accepted scientific explanation about the coronavirus disease pandemic that started in China in December 2019 or COVID19. If we add to all of the above, the emergence of new viruses and bacteria from the melts of the “permafrost” (layer of land that has been frozen for two consecutive years or more), originating from the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases, we have a global environmental scenario preparing the “perfect storm” for the spread of pathogens.
The biologist Jean-Michel Claverie of the Aix-Marseille University in France has already noticed this. The next pandemic could be hiding in permafrost: "Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals could be preserved in old layers of permafrost, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past."
It is essential not only to think and describe the causes of these "global emergencies" but also to make proposals to modify and prevent them. Among these causes already known to all, undoubtedly most enter into dispute with global capitalist models, but surely, a change in the way of food production towards agroecology could be a good start, as well as trying to stop being " at war ”with nature and stop encouraging“ savage extractivism ”.
Rafael Lajmanovich, professor of ecotoxicology in the Faculty of Biochemistry at UNL. Independent researcher from Conicet.