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COVID-19 has circled the planet several times the first year into the outbreak, reshaping nearly all aspects of human society.
It’s now clear that the virus worsens the underlying forms of violence that capitalism imposes upon everyday people. Unemployment remains through the roof. Public health is damaged beyond the outbreak itself, with, for instance, riskier childbirths and failing campaigns in malaria elimination.1 In contrast, massive public bailouts are being handed over to the more politically connected industrial sectors, including, in the U.S., fracking companies, cruise ships, and airlines, as exploited frontline workers and whole communities go uninsured and unprotected.2 We see the impacts in the rise of racist, fascist rhetoric broadcast across countries. From street vigilantes to neoliberal and authoritarian governments, the coronavirus is painted as an exotic aberration originating in “other” people,
The pamphlet works through how recent analyses of the connections among urbanization, industry, and agriculture have been used to argue for more of the kinds of surveillance and population displacement that help bring about many of the world’s current crises, this time “updated” in the name of controlling disease. The commentary details a recent high-profile report by global change ecologist Rory Gibb and his colleagues in Nature on the interconnection between land-use change, biodiversity, and zoonotic diseases—diseases that emerge out of nonhuman animals. The authors highlight the importance of the group’s findings while also pointing out the perils of the way in which this work has been mapped onto policy and intervention. If followed through, the expectations and conclusions of the Gibb group are likely to further reproduce the very kinds of social and ecological damage that the study supposedly addresses. They finish up here by introducing agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. They present the approach as both a pathway forward for the world and as an alternative that folds in the insights of the Gibb study without falling into the worst of its traps.