In 2008, my husband came home all excited about the movie, Food, Inc. We are both educators who have an active interest in healthy living. About 2004, we started a backyard garden. We utilized the permaculture philosophy to begin. Our soil was black adobe clay and some completely depleted soil that an 18 wheeler dumped on our driveway to back-fill some areas. We started with some tomato plants in pots and from there have grown food in abundance in our small space. Joel Salatin, a farmer from Virginia on Polyface farm, was featured in Food, Inc. We liked his idea about leaving the land better than the way you found it. Today, our soil is literally moving with life. The years of manure and mulch have paid off. This was Joel Salatin’s solution to the Corona Virus problem posted today on his blog: The Lunatic Farmer
I agree with the pundits that beg us all to pull together during this pandemic, to not finger point, Monday morning quarterback, and pull the shoulda, woulda, coulda. The recent Washington Post interview I did tried to pull me into that theme and refused to participate. We all can look back on shoulda, woulda, coulda.
In the midst of the house burning down, putting out the fire is certainly the right thing to do. But once the fire is out, the investigators come in and try to figure out what caused it. Unlike many instances, though, in this case we know the cause while the house is burning down.
If we don’t attack the cause with the same solidarity we’re fighting the current fire, we’ll be both foolish and wasteful. The Chinese wet markets in Wuhan are despicable beyond words. Stacked wild animals in cages, urinating, pooping, dropping puss from infectious wounds on each other in the midst of on-site filthy slaughter amidst crowded people getting manure, blood, urine, pus on them is a recipe for disaster. It’s a violent assault on everything natural.
Chinese Communism created a famine in the 1970s that starved 36 million to death, setting the stage for private farming in 1978. People were so desperate for food that wild animals normally never consumed by humans entered the food chain. By 1988 a Wildlife Protection Law that stated all wildlife was owned by the state also encouraged private breeding and production of wildlife. Today, some of these farms have as many as 1,000 bears in cages, just like factory farming.
This precipitated the SARS epidemic, which temporarily shut down these wet markets, but as soon as that malady dissipated they were back open. As Paul Harvey used to say, “it’s not one world.”
Americans have a hard time imagining factory farmed bears or bats or mountain lions, much less being slaughtered en masse in the middle of an urban metropolis in conditions that would make you wretch if you saw it. This is not pretty stuff; it’s heinous and everything evil. Who buys this? Starving people? No, in the Chinese culture, these exotic animals are believed to possess tonic capabilities for sex enhancement, body building and other super-human traits. This is equivalent to face lifts and celebrity spas in the U.S. Patrons are the rich and powerful, members of the Communist party, the country’s elite, not normal Chinese.
That is why it’s so hard to close these down. If in the U.S. Hollywood and the rich believed sincerely that some food or practice could give them a fountain of youth, do you think there would be a political will to shut it down? Probably not. The sad truth is that even as bad as this pandemic is, these powerful clients and their support structure–farmers, butchers, packagers–will be back. It’s cultural.
So what is the right response? We know the cause. You can’t thumb your nose this arrogantly at nature’s boundaries without consequences. It makes America’s factory farming, as despicable as it is, look like child’s play by comparison. So what do we do? What does the world do?
If we don’t wrestle with this question, a similar or worse thing will be back, just like COVID-19 is a magnitude worse than SARS. When assaulted, nature pushes back. As much as we fear the virus right now, what we’d better fear is refusing to stamp out the cause. This is not about demonizing other cultures; it’s about talking honestly about causes. I’m concerned that we’ll put all our effort toward some sort of vaccine rather than dealing with the cause. And like all vaccines, it will not help against the next permutation.
Do I blame these wet markets? Absolutely. Are they evil? Absolutely. Should we go to war over them? No. But if the United States led the world in assessing the cause and demanding change as much as we disallow other countries to have nuclear warheads, perhaps we’d make some progress.
What do you think is an appropriate national response to the People’s Republic of China?