I’m no epidemiologist, but some trends seem pretty obvious. While we haven’t suffered pandemics every hundred years as some have said, several have hit us and the last big one was about a hundred years ago.
Then again, we’ve seen others more recently, like SARS and MERS. The causes of pandemics have been increasing. Not just happening, but we humans have increased them. I’m not saying we deliberately chose to breed viruses, but we’ve known risks and chosen to disregard them in favor of other values like profits, comfort, and convenience. In particular, we’ve increased factory farms that breed pathogens, we encroach more on wildlife territory which exposes us to more pathogens, we keep using wet markets, we’ve increased our population density, and we fly around more.
Even during this pandemic, I have seen nearly no one focusing on stopping future pandemics. Most times I bring it up, people say it’s not the right time. We have to focus in this pandemic. When there’s no pandemic they’ll say we should worry about it when it happens. We focus on cures, not prevention.
Why not to measure time between pandemics in years
I don’t think the relevant metric to measure time between pandemics in years. We should take into account population since interactions between people spreads pandemics. I suggest the relevant measure is people years, so when there are five times as many people, as now compared to a century ago, it will take one fifth as long between pandemics.
I’m not basing this conjecture on models or research, but the chances of a pandemic spreading has to depend on population size and density.
It must also depend on population and density of animals we could catch pathogens from, so I bet the factor of five underestimates how much sooner the next will hit.
Bottom line: if we want to decrease the chances of the next pandemic, we should stop the practices that cause pandemics before they start, not just wear masks and distance ourselves afterward. That means smaller families, outlawing factory farms, outlawing wet markets, and stopping extracting resources from nature and paving it over.
We’d have to change our lifestyles, but we’d get to change our lifestyles, which would probably improve our health, longevity, prosperity, and stability.
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