Tuesday, October 14, 2014


"They have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution" 
-Pat Buchanan

As this is written, the Ebola virus is ravaging three countries - Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  In the hot zone the rate of infection is doubling every month or two. And now singular cases are cropping up in major world cities, including domestically. Even if the current pandemic is brought under control, the fruit bats that carry the virus are destined to continue to seek new habitats as climate change and the ongoing destruction of the forests continuing deforestation and natural habitat destruction in the areas where the fruit bats that carry Ebola, make future outbreaks increasingly likely. We see it with all sorts of creatures nowadays, that endless march to survive a world that keeps changing due to an increasingly hotter world, and the resultant broadening of habitats. In this time of danger and uncertainty, it is time to point at least one finger where it belongs. And it should be upraised and pointed at the junk science purveyors, that have convinced huge percentages of Americans that there is nothing to worry about. As long as the fossil fuel industry keeps enjoying the fruits of their donations. 

I usually deplore midterm campaigns, for the intemperate ads the consultants create. I rather agree with this one. It blames the ongoing antics of the Republicans in Congress for Ebola spreading. For all the sequestrations and budgetary games, have adversely affected the agencies we occasionally do need in times of crisis. Right Now. Such as the Centers for Disease Control. 

The bubonic plague killed a third of Europe's population. The flu pandemic after WWI killed nearly one hundred million people, almost 5% of the world population. Until now Ebola occurred in isolated places, and ended by infecting everyone in an area, then running out of new victims. Now that the current outbreak has spread to large population centers,  the chances of a spontaneous end to the pandemic is small. The mortality rate currently is trending to 50%. Some believe it will end up closer to 70%. 

We are told, Ebola has a three week incubation period,  where patients remain asymptomatic and, theoretically noninfectious. Some patients however, were and are asymptomatic throughout and infect others. without the high fever, nausea, fatigue, bloody stool, bloody vomit, nose bleeds and signs of hemorrhage , we are told to look for. We are told that Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the afflicted.  Among pigs and monkeys Ebola spreads through the air, and the possibility of catching as we do the flu, is impossible to discount entirely. Many of the medical staff who have been infected, were wearing protective gear, such as the nurse in Dallas.  If it is able to be transmitted through the air, the next fashion trend may have been previewed by John Travolta in this screen classic....

The blood tests for someone suspected of having Ebola, is known to produce false negatives. The current "enhanced screening," being introduced at our airports, is unlikely to stop infected individuals at the gate. The history of the TSA, includes open worrying that breast milk has a potential for explosives.  It is unclear what would guarantee that Ebola is not going to spread. Even a month-long group quarantine of those coming from the "Hot Zone" countries, could be defeated by a fast-mutating virus adapting to a longer  period of quarantine. 

The current protocol for treatment of Ebola cases, amounts to little more than hydration and palliative care. The only effective therapy currently, is the transfusion of blood from survivors. The experimental drug ZMapp has been less effective in humans, than in monkeys. Even if its production was scaled up, it will be too late to impact this current epidemic. Ebola vaccines have been demonstrated to be effective in animal trials, one has been shown to be safe in humans, but the process of proving effectiveness for humans and producing sufficient quantities,  takes far longer than it takes for the virus to infect the world. Part of the problems we face today, are due to the way our domestic political dysfunction has decimated funding for research and development for agencies such as NASA and the CDC. For the "private sector" lacks the ability to address all woes. No matter what we have heard for years from the Republican right wing, the planet is changing markedly faster than Al Gore's warnings in "An Inconvenient Truth." 

A scenario where Ebola engulfs the globe is not yet guaranteed, but neither is it an apocalyptic fantasy.  And in the worst case, Ebola could reduce the human population of the earth from over 7 billion to around 3.5 billion in a relatively short period of time. Though  a 50% population reduction is still not an extinction, the world it leaves in its wake would be like the aftermath of World War III. The living would envy the dead. 

In that worst case scenario, there undoubtedly will still be the flat earth crowd in our politics, that will proclaim a population collapse as a benign event, and, given their Social Darwinism and fundamentalism, would probably proclaim that the horror was somehow beneficial, due to its origins in the world's poorer places. Those remaining to appear on Fox News, will be answering burning questions like wealth preservation, and hedging portfolios against a 50% global population drop  Of course all currency, stocks, bonds, and any other financial instruments, would be worthless. So would commodities such as fossil fuels. and precious metals. For people cannot consume gold. Since wealthy people squandered a disproportionate amount of the world's treasure on themselves before the plague, those ascendant in the aftermath might decide to revisit the Soviet purges or the Nazi People's Courts. They might remember as well, the complacency and selfishness the world has displayed whenever it has considered human suffering in Africa. And as they curse the failed generation of leadership that ignored science and fact, in the name of votes and greed, they will reflect upon how nature ultimately exacted Pat Buchanan's "retribution."