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Capitalism caused the Pandemic

Global Pandemics

The global pandemic, which began in China, was not a natural event. Capitalism caused the pandemic. Although the current Pandemic originated in China in its wild meat markets, pandemics had been previously caused by capitalist deforestation and the commercial extension of palm oil plantations.

As one unnamed environmentalist wrote:

"Deforestation can cause really scary diseases. Wild animals carry unique, unseen pathogens - that's just part of being a wild animal. When commercial outlets cut down forests, they bring the animals closer to the edge, and they create new ways for people to interact with them. That's how Ebola started. And it looks like that's how the novel coronavirus - or, as we now call it, COVID-19 - started, too. Scientists believe that the virus lived in a bat or a pangolin and then transferred to humans through a process known as zoonotic spill over. That's what happened when, as you may recall, it jumped from animals to humans in a wild meat market".

This view was echoed in the NEW SCIENTIST. In an article 'Controlling deforestation and wildlife trade could prevent pandemics' (29th October 2020) we were told that almost every known pandemic disease came from an animal. Covid-19 came from bats in China; HIV emerged from the hunting of chimpanzees and recent Ebola outbreaks stemmed from the hunting of wild primates.

The epicentre of covid-19 was in the Chinese city of Wuhan, an important hub in the lucrative trade in wildlife - both legal and illegal. The outbreak is believed to have originated in a market in which a variety of animal-derived products and meats are widely available, including peacocks, porcupines, bats and rats.

Some of this trade is legal under Chinese domestic law but the existence of a parallel illegal trade - often within the very same market or stall - allows some traders to launder illicit wildlife products into the system. This buying and selling of this meat is very difficult to regulate and control. A 2017 report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering valued the yearly wildlife-farming industry operations at 520bn Yuan, or £57bn (GUARDIAN 15 2 2020). This market in wild animals is extremely profitable.

The increasing prevalence of disease passing from wild animals, birds and mammals to humans was highlighted in the magazine NATURE. An article 'Why Deforestation and Extinction makes Pandemics more likely' (07 09 2020) commented on the field work undertaken by the Stanford academic Dr. Jones. The article reported:

"For their latest analysis, Jones and her team compiled more than 3.2 million records from several hundred ecological studies at sites around the world, ranging from native forests to cropland to cities. They found that the populations of species known to host diseases transmissible to humans - including 143 mammals such as bats, rodents and various primates — increased as the landscape changed from natural to urban, and as biodiversity generally decreased".

And an article on deforestation in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences commented that

"...excessive deforestation in Amazonia means drought in Sao Paulo, Brazil, pulmonary problems from forest fire smoke blanketing lowland Bolivia, and, as it reaches the tipping point toward savannification, progressive loss of livelihoods for some 30 million people in the nine countries that Amazonia's forests embrace. Globally, the Amazon's trees-still in the billions-absorb 2 billion tons of CO2 per year, or 5% of annual emissions, making it a vital buffer against climate change"

Deforestation and Capitalism

Deforestation and climate warming is also inextricably linked to capitalism. Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has risen to its highest level since 2008 according to the Brazilian Space Agency (Inpe). A total of 11,088 sq km (4,281 sq miles) of rainforest were destroyed from August 2019 to July 2020 (BBC NEWS 1 December 2020). This is a 9.5% increase from the previous year.

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged agriculture, logging and mining activities in the world's largest rainforest. In addition to encouraging development in the rainforest, President Bolsonaro has also cut funding to federal agencies that have the power to fine and arrest farmers and loggers breaking environmental law. Profit for Brazil's commercial interests is all President Bolsonaro is interested in, and as a politician of a capitalist country competing on the world market, no one should be surprised.

Then there is deforestation associated with and palm oil plantations. Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most bio-diverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orang-utan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss along with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are pumping- out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Deforestation and olive oil plantations also push human beings closer to bats and mammals which carry diseases.

The most obvious solution to reducing the future risk of global pandemics like Covid-19 is to put a stop to harmful deforestation. Unfortunately, capitalism is taking the exact opposite approach. In the first four months of 2020, deforestation was up 55% in the Amazon rainforest alone (Woodwell Climate Research Center, 10 8 2020). Under capitalism, rain forests are considered private property; a resource to be exploited for profit. They are not the 'common heritage of humanity' as environmentalists like Sir David Attenborough believe they are.

Capitalism waging a suicidal war with nature

The United Nations General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, claimed that humans are waging a 'Suicidal war on Nature' (BBC 2 12 2020). He is wrong. It is capitalism which is at war on nature. It is capitalism that despoils the Earth and ruins the biosphere. It is profit which drives capitalists to deforest the jungles in South America and the Far East, and to run dangerous wild meat markets. It is capitalism that pollutes and destroys for profit.

The majority of the world's population, the 90 percent, are wage slaves not the 1 per cent who own the earth's resources, land, factories, transport and communication and distribution points. It is capitalism which is on a suicidal war with nature not 'human beings'. If the UN General Secretary is too scared to name the social system causing pandemics, deforestation and global warming then socialists are not. Capitalism is the problem and the problem will remain while capitalism is permitted by the working class to exist to continue its cycle of destruction.

What we can say about capitalism is that markets are highly unstable and dangerous. We now add pandemics to global warming to the problems capitalism causes to human beings and the environment we live in. All caused by the private ownership of the means of production and distribution by a minority capitalist class to the exclusion of the rest of society. Capitalists produce commodities for profit, capital accumulation and the expansion of value.

Would a socialist society behave like this? We would not have global warming and pandemics caused by capitalism and the profit motive. Socialism would not be burdened by nation states and the rivalry of nation states in finding a vaccine. Workers would not have the fear of unemployment, reduced wages and having to go to food banks. If global disasters were to occur they would take place in a social system of world co-operation, production directly for social use, free and co-operative social labour, and a health service ft for purpose not erased by under-funding, privatisations and the stamp of being 'second best' compared to the access of health enjoyed by the capitalist class.

The only way to control deforestation and the dangerous wildlife trade is to establish socialism. Socialism would be a world-wide social system being able to rationally deal with global problems which a fragmented capitalism, forced into hundreds of competing nation states, is unable to do. Would socialism recklessly endanger the biosphere and destroy forests? Would socialism permit harmful food production? Only socialism would prevent reckless ecological damage such as deforestation. In socialism there would be no markets, no buying and selling of harmful food. In socialism there would be no commercial drive to exploit the rain forests. Production and distribution would be owned in common under democratic control.

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