COVID in the stone age

Simon Mercer

A few months back, I tried to imagine what set us up for such a worldwide disaster as COVID 19? I mean, if it started with fruit bats as most experts think, people have been hunting them for THOUSANDS of years! What has changed?

Imagine, let’s say, in the year 1000 A.D., Hunter A goes hunting and sees bats eating his fruit. He knows they can do tremendous damage and fruit bats have a LOT of meat, so he kills two bats with one bolt, so to speak. Not noticing that one is sick he brings it ho-me and has a bat stew cooking in no time. His wife adds some spices and the f-amily sits down for a hearty meal.

Hunter A was going to walk to town to sell some furs later that week, but feels ill, sore all over and goes to bed. The whole family comes down with something like a very serious flu and are treated with the best herbals and lots of rest. Their neighbors observe the situation and stay far away, perhaps muttering about evil spirits, but at last the hunter’s family pulls through.

Neighbors bring food, and the episode is over. Word goes around that bats are bad medicine and, for the next hundred years, the people of that province shun bat entirely. This is to me a realistic scenario for a virus like COVID 19 breaking out in the distant past. Why did it not affect the whole planet like our present outbreak? I think mainly, because we live in a super-super-globalized world, very unnaturally globalized!

Globalization has always occurred, but on a very small scale, and very slowly. But through rampant consumer demand for foreign products, and even through interstate traffic we spread some really bad stuff! The incredible mass transit within Wuhan and out of China, for instance, (especially with air travel), turned Covid 19 into a time bomb! Michael Pollan and many others have sent out a call for decades: let’s buy local, produce local, AND live local! It makes sense in so many ways, but also in keeping epidemics tiny.

The latest insect pest affecting the farmers and gardeners (the spotted lantern fly) came in on pallets of stone from the middle of China. Is there not enough stone in North America?

Imagine knowing the people (personally) who make your dresses, or make your furniture. Imagine helping catch the cows that your neighbor grows for meat or cheese. Life is boring for many, many people because they have dropped out of the food and fiber chain and only consume a super-refined product of unknown origin. Survival is the most exciting game, and people who feel distant from any material contribution to human existence lose zest for life.

The way we behaved in 2019 set the stage for COVID 19. I don’t pretend to have any medical expertise, I’m just pointing out, like the little boy in the old fairy tale, that “the Emperor has no clothes!”

I know a young lady who has traveled to Kenya (from the Midwest USA) at least 30 times. I can sympathize with her, I also love Nairobi, (after one three-day stay), but her reasons for going were interesting …. “Whenever I’m depressed or bored,” she told me, “I jump on the plane for Africa, it works every time!” What did bored people do before planes? As CS Lewis said, “100 miles of cross-country walking produces 10 times as much adventure as flying around the world.”

Well, I have to sign off now. It’s time to sample some local craft IPA with friends and family at a nearby wood-fired lean-to. Wish I could invite the whole world, but I will have to settle for a vow to love everybody and bring them to the cabin in my heart. Besides, as the Iranian saying goes, an assembly of a thousand men is only a handful, but a man and woman together are a multitude.