By Tina Landis
Confirmed cases of coronavirus as of March 29. Darkest red signifies over 100,000 confirmed cases. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
As I write this article, most of the nation is living under shelter-in-place orders with all non-essential services shut down — although the federal government’s determination of “non-essential” is questionable when weapons manufacturers continue to operate while the Environmental Protection Agency shutters its doors. Regardless, the pandemic has plunged the system into what many are calling a depression. Millions have become jobless overnight and face an uncertain future.
A great leveling is occurring across borders, race and all income levels within the 99 percent as we are left to fend for ourselves while the billionaires at the top sack the coffers. But people are beginning to organize themselves. Mutual aid groups have been established around the country to help the most vulnerable in their communities. Organizations are delivering surplus masks and gloves to medical facilities that are lacking. At the same time, the federal government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to transfer enormous amounts of wealth to the billionaire class and demonstrating that they couldn’t care less about the people.
We are living the climate crisis and this is how it will continue to evolve without united action from below. It is not some far off distant problem. It is happening now.
Scientists have warned that the severity and spread of pandemics and vector-borne diseases will increase with climate change. As ecosystems are disrupted by land use changes and deforestation and wildfires and droughts increase, the natural balance between species is disrupted causing disease to proliferate. The warming climate is altering migration patterns and habitat loss sends wildlife into closer proximity to humans.
Disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie stated: “Major landscape changes are causing animals to lose habitats, which means species become crowded together and also come into greater contact with humans. Species that survive change are now moving and mixing with different animals and with humans.”
Vector-borne illnesses like malaria, dengue and Lyme disease are also spreading into new territories as the climate warms and the expansion of suburbs into fractured forested areas increase contact. “Altering the ecosystem affects the complex cycle of the Lyme pathogen. People living close by are more likely to get bitten by a tick carrying Lyme bacteria,” Gillespie says.
Deforestation has been linked to the outbreak of Ebola, Zika and Nipah viruses. The blame lies not with the small farmer but rather with big agribusiness and the global finance sector. Sixty-eight percent of the top influential companies and financial institutions who oversee forest-risk supply chains have no anti-deforestation policy, and of the remainder, only 19 percent have anti-deforestation commitments for all their commodities. Profits are the priority and products like palm oil and soybeans for biofuel are a cash crop that disregard sustainability.
Today, we are seeing the results of more than a century of capitalist plunder. Until now the climate crisis has been mainly felt at the local or regional level through floods, wildfires, droughts and extreme weather events. Now, in the time of the coronavirus, we are all living the global catastrophe together. If we fail to act, our future is clear. If we continue on with the profit-driven system of capitalism, the majority will suffer while the disaster capitalists squeeze every last profit out of us as we are driven to extinction. But it is not too late and there is another way — people’s power.
Workers run the world —which became crystal clear as the economy collapsed when most of us went on lockdown. The capitalist class are merely parasites serving no purpose for society. The U.S. health care system is completely incapable of addressing the pandemic due to the fact that its main function is not about care but to make profits for a few.
The pandemic demonstrates the need for a complete restructuring of society and a transformation to a socialist system that utilizes the world’s resources to protect public health, provide for all, and restore and protect the life-giving systems of the planet.
We need an uprooting of the system to put people and the planet first. We can’t wait for crumbs thrown to us from above. We need to organize ourselves, nationalize the health care system and medical supply factories, take over the industries and banks, and use that wealth to de-carbonize our infrastructure. We need to take the wealth of the billionaires that was stolen from our labor and use it to create a system that provides for us all.
In these days of social distancing, we must organize remotely and lay the groundwork for the struggles to come when we can come together in the streets and workplaces to demand what is ours.