Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two extremely interesting reviews in The Sunday Times; one a film and the other a book. Verily, to use a good old-fashioned biblical sort of word, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The debate about global warming is still making headlines and, if global warming is actually taking place, there is only one reason for it – too many humans. The book reviewed is “The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age” by Nathan Wolfe, professor in Human Biology at Stanford University. Also the director of Global Viral Forecasting, an organisation searching for “the first human infection by an animal virus that may wipe out millions, or hundreds of millions, of people throughout the planet.”

The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed 50million. Today swine flu will eventually infect 2billion, killing 1% and the bird flu virus has a fatality rate of 60%. The danger is bird flu could combine with swine flu creating what he calls “a mosaic daughter virus.” Alternatively, a chimpanzee kills and eats a monkey; a hunter kills and eats the chimp and, whacko! There’s your virus passed on. This evidently was how HIV was born. So “bush meat” over which Wolfe is especially worried is a major problem which leads us to the population explosion. Urbanisation, deforestation and road building are taking millions of hungry people into previous remote forest regions and exotic wild animals are increasingly on the menu. Another problem is the amount of globe-trotting humans are now indulging in. Chris has just flown back from London and has arrived with the mother and father, grand parents of a cold, if it’s not the flu, and I swear, as I’ve maintained for some time, it’s from the aeroplane. In the US influenza rates rise sharply every Thanksgiving as people fly home for the holiday and I invariably come down with a chest infection after flying. It’s not really surprising when you think of bring cooped up in steel tube using recycled air with hundreds of others some of whom are bound to be unwell and whose germs can easily be passed on. Our interconnected world is just one “giant microbial mixing vessel.”

Now for the fiction bit – A film called ‘Contagion’ with a truly star-studded cast is quite simply about a global pandemic such as Professor Wolfe has scientifically postulated. One woman catches a mysterious virus which soon spreads around the world and it is up to the scientists and brave doctors (American of course) to discover a cure before the human race is wiped out.

So, truth or fiction or truth and fiction and can anything be done about it or has it already gone too far? One has only to watch the news, see thousands of people milling about in city centres like swarms of ants, note the number of cars on the roads, look at the modern skyscrapers and sprawling densely packed cities to realise how overloaded the planet is and, apart from the possibility of a pandemic, the earth’s resources are not going to last forever, in fact are being depleted fast.

At my age none of this concerns me but I do feel for future generations if future generations there are going to be.

And on this optimistic and joyful note ya’ll have a good Christmas and a bonny new year.

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