Home - A Root of Many Evils: The Source of “The Age of Emerging Plagues”

A Root of Many Evils: The Source of “The Age of Emerging Plagues”

Why the Age of Emerging Plagues?

In the sea of information and opinions about COVID-19 in which we are all floundering, we recently discovered a harbor of sanity. Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die and founder of NutritionFacts.org, recently posted a video and transcript of a presentation “Pandemics: History and Prevention” that he gave over ten years ago, when the bird flu was in full swing. In it he presents the history of infectious diseases, and the treatment of it by preventing their emergence.

Three ages of disease

Medical anthropologists identify three major periods of disease, beginning about 10,000 years ago when human beings began the domestication of animals. “When we brought animals into the barnyard, they brought their diseases with them” – measles from cows and sheep, smallpox from camels, whooping cough from pigs, typhoid fever from chickens, and the common cold from horses.

“The next great period of human disease started just a few hundred years ago with the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, leading to an epidemic of  the so-called diseases of civilization: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, etc. But by the mid-twentieth century, the age of infectious disease at least was thought to be over… But then, something changed. Starting around 1975, new diseases started to emerge and reemerge at a rate unheard of in the annals of medicine. More than 30 new diseases in 30 years––mostly newly discovered viruses.

“We may soon be facing, according to the US Institute of Medicine, what they call a catastrophic storm of microbial threats. We are now smack dab in the third era of human disease, which seems to only have started about 30 years ago. Medical historians have called this time in which we live the Age of Emerging Plagues, almost all of which come from animals.

“But we domesticated animals 10,000 years ago. What has changed in recent decades to bring us to this current situation? Well, we are changing the way animals live.”

Meat and emerging plagues

Factory Farming - emerging plaguesDr. Greger goes on to explain in great detail how mankind’s interference with nature has tilted the natural balance and exposed us to a host of new diseases. Unfortunately, it’s a long, bizarre and shocking list. The deforestation of the Amazon and African rainforests exposed those regions to an easier spread of previously unknown viruses; the workers on these projects fed on “bush meat” (wild animals killed for food), and became infected from this tainted meat, and the viruses spread worldwide from there. In a less exotic context and over a longer period of time, chickens were moved from the barnyard to crowded and filthy battery cages. “Old MacDonald’s farm has since been replaced by the new MacDonald’s farm.”

As the worldwide lust for animal protein (and even exotic meats, as in the wet markets of Wuhan) has grown, so has the size and filth of the pork, beef, and poultry farms around the world, with the catastrophic results the world is experiencing now, and which are likely to continue. In this 2010 presentation Dr. Greger presciently warned:

“Imagine Katrina. Imagine every city New Orleans around the world at the same time, all perhaps because people insisted on eating cheaper chicken.”

The conclusion seems obvious. Dr. Greger concludes his presentation with a word of hope from the the World Health Organization:

“If changes in human behavior can cause new plagues, then changes in human behavior may prevent them in the future.”

You can view this video at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/pandemics-history-prevention/ It is about an hour long. If you prefer to read a transcript of the presentation, just click “View Transcript” on the page this link takes you to (below left of the video), or click here to download a PDF of the text.

Further reading on avoiding emerging plagues:


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