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Man, Not Nature, Is Responsible for Spread of Epidemics

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, June 27

A lot of attention has been given by media outlets to the cutting edge efforts to find and develop a vaccination for the COVID-10 virus. However, little has been said about the fact that, regardless of a vaccine, the pandemic will likely continue to ebb and flow in years to come unless we correct our relationship with nature, which has been continuously degraded by human activity. Poverty, the overcrowding of cities, the growing gap between the world’s poor and rich, inadequate healthcare, and the growing intensity of human movement around the world have all contributed to the depletion of our environment. These are the factors that eventually turned a local epidemic into a global pandemic that threatens millions of people. In essence, the poverty prevailing among 10% of our planet’s population is one of the key reasons for the spread of epidemics. Indeed, a study of major pandemics throughout history shows that man has always been the primary culprit in their spread. Viruses and bacteria are only secondary actors in the story; it is irresponsible human activity that leads to major crises. For example, the Antonine plague was brought to the Roman Empire by troops who were returning from campaigns in the Near East. Similarly, the plague of Amwas, the Black Death in the 14th century CE, and the Spanish Flu of 1918 were all caused by the return of soldiers from distant battlefields, where they lacked clean water and had inadequate sanitary conditions. Today, viruses spread less due to war and more do to the rapid rise in globalization. Therefore, until we change our behavior and become more conscious of our impact on our planet, viruses discovered in distant corners of the world will continue to spread among us, turning into public health crises like the one we’re experiencing today. – Jasser Al-Harbash (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)