Earth’s Most Invasive Species
April 29, 2020
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer
“Man is the cruelest animal.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Earth’s Most Invasive Species: Humanity-2020
President Trump portrayed the surging coronavirus pandemic as a shocking surprise that no one could have seen coming. “It snuck up on us,” he said on March 18, calling the virus “a very unforeseen thing.” The truth is multiple sources — the WHO, numerous US agencies, daily presidential intelligence reports, Trump’s own economic adviser — were ringing alarm bells very early on about the looming catastrophe.
Likewise, the world’s leading biodiversity experts are frantically warning we’re on track to experience more ‘shocking surprises’ — in the form of even deadlier and more destructive disease outbreaks — if humans continue their rampant destruction of the natural world. “There is a single species responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic — us,” they said. “Recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity….”
The most comprehensive planetary health check ever undertaken was published in 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It concluded that human society was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. In an article published Monday in advance of the next IPBES assessment, the experts write: “Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases.” 70 percent of emerging human diseases originate from human contact with animals; these activities cause pandemics by bringing more people into contact and conflict with animals.
“Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently, spread more rapidly, have greater economic impact and kill more people if we are not extremely careful about … the choices we make today. [Covid-19] may be only the beginning.”
Ulet Ifansasti via Getty Images
One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s 5 To 9
- Bantar Gebang is one of the world’s largest landfills, stretching the length of more than 200 football fields. Each day some 7,000 tons of waste from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, are deposited here. And each day, in the pouring rain or the middle of the night, trash pickers come scavenging through the mountain of rotting garbage more than 15 stories high, looking for anything that can be recycled.
- Pickers can typically earn $2 to $10 a day from the plastic, metal, wood, electronic waste, even the bones they collect. The stench is overpowering, and they must carefully avoid the bulldozers distributing waste across an ever-rising plateau. Landslides are a constant danger. These are just a few of the workplace hazards when the only job available is scavenging.
- Now adding to the misery is the global economic showdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most recycling companies that buy waste from the pickers have closed their doors, meaning pickers have nowhere to sell what they collect. (NYT)
- Additional movie trailer: Slumdog Millionaire
Scott Olson via Getty Images
Less Like Charlotte’s Web and More Bleak Like Animal Farm
- African swine flu, the deadly hemorrhagic disease that resulted in the loss of some 120 million hogs in 2019, was first reported at a farm in northeast China in August 2018. Then from mid-November to mid-March China’s pig farms reported no new cases, and the government said the disease had been stabilized.
- Since then, however, new cases of the highly contagious livestock disease have reappeared, and are raising questions about the accuracy of China’s reporting. The USDA said in an April report: “Underreporting is rampant …. Some farms are reluctant to report outbreaks for fear of economic losses, while others report being actively discouraged” from disclosing cases of the disease.
- An American veterinarian hired as a consultant for an animal feed company visited a small farm in northern China in January, where he found a number of dead and dying pigs displaying common signs of African swine flu. A local government vet had said the animals were suffering from a nasal disease or some other unspecified illness, but the American vet’s tests produced “red-hot positive” results for swine flu.
- Animal-health experts say African swine fever is now one of the world’s worst-ever livestock pandemics and will remain endemic in Asia for decades, largely because of China’s failure to modernize its hog-farming sector and get the disease under control. (WSJ)
- Trump orders U.S. meat-processing plants to stay open despite coronavirus fears (Reuters)
- Additional quote: “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm
Additional World News
- Mile-wide asteroid set to pass within 3.9m miles of Earth (Guardian)
- He Found One of Stalin’s Mass Graves. Now He’s in Jail. (NYT, $)
- There’s good news too! Arctic ozone hole that become the region’s largest ever recorded has closed (CNN) & Now We Know How Quickly Our Trashed Planet Can Heal (NYT)
- Jair Bolsonaro faces inquiry into claims of meddling with police (Guardian) Both Trump and Bolsonaro are facing major headwinds and the pandemic isn’t helping either.
- ‘There is no absolute truth’: an infectious disease expert on Covid-19, misinformation and ‘bullshit’ (Guardian)
- Antibody tests support what’s been obvious: Covid-19 is much more lethal than the flu (WaPo)
- Sweden says its coronavirus approach has worked. The numbers suggest a different story (CNN)
- Coronavirus Diplomacy: How China’s Red Cross Serves the Communist Party (NYT)
- Argentina Imposes Toughest Travel Ban in Americas, Banning Flights Until Sept. 1 (NYT)
- Blood-clotting complication is killing coronavirus patients, doctors say (WaPo, $)
- CDC Adds New Symptoms to Coronavirus List (NYT)
- In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead (NYT)
- What Will We Remember From the Coronavirus Pandemic? (Vice)
- The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing a Manhattan Project for Covid-19 (WSJ, $)
- Should You Wear a Mask When Exercising Outdoors? (WSJ, $)
COVID-19 & Money
- The Fed’s four radical moves to save the economy (BBC)
- Investors Bet Giant Companies Will Dominate After Crisis (NYT, $)
- Should we be scared of the coronavirus debt mountain? (Guardian)
- Coronavirus hits profits at corporate America (BBC)
Sending In The Benchwarmers
- So much attention has been given to the flamboyance and bluster of the Trump presidency his makeover of the federal judiciary has almost flown under the radar. Yet it is this latter, quieter project that will likely have the longest and most far-reaching impact on Americans’ daily lives.
- With eager assistance from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), Trump has appointed 51 out of the 179 active circuit court judges, or almost 30 percent of the entire bench; next month the total is expected to hit 53.
- Now coming into focus is the impact Trump’s unprecedented number of conservative judicial appointments is having on the courts, ruling by ruling, in areas like healthcare, voting rights, criminal justice, anti-discrimination efforts and the climate. Trump’s judges, with their lifetime appointments, have a younger starting median age (48.2 years) than those appointed by former presidents Obama and Bush.
- And while America becomes more demographically diverse and socially progressive, Trump’s picks are predominantly male, white, and deeply ideologically conservative. They are changing America. A political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who focuses on the federal bench, is clear: “The change is happening. It’s happening before our very eyes.” (Guardian)
- Opinion | I’m the Judge Who Won in Wisconsin. This Principle Is More Important Than Winning. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Coronavirus Has Now Killed More Americans Than Vietnam War (NPR)
- Where the coronavirus is hitting rural America hard (Vox)
- Reopening states too early will bring deadlier outcomes, coronavirus projection models show (CNN)
- Coronavirus Relief Often Pays Workers More Than Work (WSJ, $)
- Millions of People Face Stimulus Check Delays for a Strange Reason:… (Pro Publica)
- Two Weapons, a Chase, a Killing and No Charges (NYT, $)
- Coronavirus: Mike Pence flouts rule on masks at hospital (BBC)
- Pentagon releases three UFO videos taken by US navy pilots (Guardian)
- The Marine Corps Battles for Its Identity, Over Women in Boot Camp (NYT, $) & Marine Corps Bans Public Display of Confederate Flag (NYT, $) In case you all missed the news: Sherman burned down the South for being rebels and Robert E. Lee lost the war.
Don’t Cry Over Spoiled Milk
- The Covid-19 pandemic, with its social distancing requirements, has made getting groceries at the store a challenging experience for lots of people. And in many locations, increased demand for home delivery of groceries bought online makes it difficult to secure a slot.
- “Now that food is harder to get, it’s more important than ever to use everything we buy and make use of what we already have in our pantries,” says Scott Nash, founder and CEO of the grocery store chain Mom’s Organic Market. Nash has spent 30 years in the grocery business. Four years ago he made it his mission to prove that expiration dates don’t actually mean food has spoiled.
- After a year of experimenting he now says with confidence: “You can ignore expiration dates on most foods. Besides meat and produce, expiration dates generally don’t have anything to do with food safety.” Manufacturers use their discretion to pick the “best by,” “sell by,” and “use by” dates printed on their products; the chosen date usually reflects when the food company recommends using the product for peak quality rather than an indication of how safe it is to eat beyond that date.
- Even if a product in your pantry is years past the printed date, it’s not necessarily bad. For example, most grains like rice, oats, and pasta rarely go bad. Anything in a jar, can, or glass bottle, can last decades unless opened or broken. If something in your fridge is about to expire, like meat, cook it to help it last longer. For a simple rule of thumb to tell if food is still good, Nash says: “trust your eyes and your nose.” (CNBC)
- Frozen, fresh or canned food: What’s more nutritious? (BBC)
- Trader Joe’s and other US firms suppress unionization efforts during pandemic (Guardian)
- The wasteful fate of a third of food (BBC)
Additional Reads: Or How I Made Use of My COVID-19 Cell
- How To Write A Book (NPR)
- Want to Learn French? Italian? Russian? There’s No Time Like the Present (NYT)
- Home workouts as essential viewing: Jane Fonda to Joe Wicks (BBC)
- Why Remote Work Sucks, According To Science (NPR)
- ‘I Like It, Actually’: Why So Many Older People Thrive in Lockdown (NYT) Additional lyrics: “I like it, I’m not gonna crack” in Nirvana – Lithium
While the above links will help you write a book, workout, or learn a language there are also ways to laugh away this pandemic. Some of the best comedies are ones that spoof the military, here are just a few:
- Bill Murray in the Stripes Trailer
- Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots! Trailer
- Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. in a very underrated comedy movie but one of our favorite military spoofs: Tropic Thunder (2008) Official Trailer
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