Entornointeligente.com / My skin has a mild contusion from self-inflicted pinching because I woke up the day after Christmas with a deep appreciation for life and the little things that truly matter. My maternal grandmother, who was an even 70 years old when I started to talk, spent the next 30 years of her life predicting her imminent death. After all, having lived through World War I between 1914 and 1918, with the Spanish Flu pandemic at its tail-end, then World War II and the internal labour conflicts and riots that led to our modern political parties, she was constantly reminded of how fragile our flimsy existence is.
She also saw first hand the 1960s internal assault against blackness and Rastafari as well as Hurricane Flora as I sat nestled on the lap of her spouse Grampa (Ol’ Vas) Basil Taylor while the waters rose in the tenement yard in Compound, Waterhouse. It was truly a young bird not knowing storm because a teenager (late musician) ‘Ranchie’ McLean and others frolicked in the waist-high dirty water, which threatened to flood us out. By the end of the decade of the 1960s, as a child starting grade three, I was old enough to truly understand that Hong Kong Flu was not just a song by the Ethiopians but something very dangerous.
If COVID-19, were a human, it would doubtless be the person of the year in all magazines. It has occupied the front page of all news stories on electronic and print platforms for the last 10 months at least. In the USA, the new ‘epicentre’ of the disease, the figures keep rising faster than a river in spate. From zero at the beginning of the year, it now has 18.238 million confirmed cases, with approximately 323,000 individuals dying. That the number of global fatalities is creeping towards the two million mark is frightening. More people have died than live in any other anglophone CARICOM country apart from Jamaica. For good measure, we are talking about 60 per cent of the population of Jamaica.
I don’t know about you, but even with the assurance that there are at least three vaccines and at least one will soon be available here, COVID-19 has scared the shiftlessness out of me. Indeed, the data have helped me to live the paradox of residing on an island and being in continent. Thankfully, the global mortality rate is around 2.5 per cent of confirmed cases. Therefore, there is a 97.5 per cent chance that if you become infected, you will survive. Still, there is a lot of space in the 2.5 per cent, and certainly no one wants to be in the lot. COVID-19, and the new strain, vaccine or not, is going to be with us longer than an unwelcome distant relative who popped in to ‘spend some time’ but despite upturning multiple brooms, is as irremovable as curry stain on white.
IN A BETTER PLACE But for all our worry, we are still in a better place than we were globally in previous pandemics. The 1918 to 1920 flu infected around 500 million people, close to a third of a global population of around 1.7 billion and took out between 20 and 50 million. Some estimates are as high as 100 million because of the less sophisticated data collection and communication available back then. Hong Kong flu had a death toll of 1.4 million out of a world population of 3.55 billion. Therefore, we must count our blessings where 1.7 million have passed on out of our global total of 7.8 billion earth-bound residents.
Yet, there are bigger threats to life on this planet than COVID-19. For all the nonchalance, dishonesty, and denials by politicians and greedy industrialists, the oceans are rising and have risen by close to two inches since I began my career as an opinion journalist with this group. By the time the average Jamaican lives out their three-score and 10, our average life expectancy being 75, close to 100 million people on the planet will have no land on which to live.
Our poor management of the environment is poisoning ground water, reducing forest and other ground cover, and eliminating wildlife at an alarming rate. An area of 13.7 million hectares of forest, the size of Greece, each year is carelessly removed. The UN estimates that 24 species per day are made extinct globally; 8,700 annually.
Here on little Jamrock, we are slated to lose some coastal towns and parts of the cities. And with the indiscriminate destruction of habitats, especially wetlands where crocodiles live, these practices will literally come back to bite us in the butt.
So as we end 2020 and get on top of COVID-19, there are even greater challenges because there is no vaccine against the looming crisis we are creating by our abuse of our biosphere.
– Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to [email protected] and [email protected] .
LINK ORIGINAL: Jamaica Gleaner