Well, the readers of Monthly Review would never presume it to be a single person, nor People, nor country. In an interview with Ian Masters, host of “Background Briefing” (KPFK), Rob Wallace diagnoses the source of the virus that we now know as Covid-19, and, no surprise to our readers, it is yet again: extractive capitalism. “You make it clear that this is the result of the global capital drive, the deforestation and development that has exposed these pathogens, and we are in the age of climate change and agribusiness, and together they exacerbate this condition as we intrude into the natural world in the most horrific ways,” comments Masters, as they discuss Wallace’s book, Dead Epidemiologists.
Which is of course why publishing Wallace’s Dead Epidemiologists was a no-brainer for Monthly Review Press.
Masters continues with a challenging question: “Obviously a lot of hawks on this side (of the planet), and Trump himself tried to scapegoat China, to try to get himself off the hook for his manifest stupidity and incompetence, but, the Chinese only lost about 7,000 people. But while they contained it in China they seemed to have allowed it to get out. Is that a fair criticism?” Wallace answers:
“Well…the Chinese do bear responsibility on a number of fronts. One, they took the brick road of capitalist development, for good reason in some part, in that they did not want the global North to determine how they were going to develop their resources, and not just kind of allow extractivism out of their country, so they decided, we’re going to do capitalism, with Chinese characteristics. And by virtue of doing so, they pulled millions out of poverty, even though they also left behind millions in poverty. It’s not for me to say whether that was the right call, but in the end, really, but in the course of self-exploiting their own landscape, it led to the kind of extractivism that led to the increase in the interface between animals that are reservoirs for dangerous diseases and locals who are involved in the kind of deforestation and development that is related to the foreign direct investment into the country and also China’s own objectives to pull itself forward as a capitalist power. Now, they, in my view, in the course of doing so, made the decision that there was going to be some damage, and they’ve tried to clean up messes as they’ve emerged, in a very post-hoc way….So the thought was, this is the cost of doing business, and that they would externalize the cost, not just on the people of China, but on the rest of the world…China is not alone in that. The U.S. has done that, Europe has done that…the Swine flu, H1N1 that emerged in 2009 outside Mexico City, our team calls that the NAFTA flu, (from) the U.S. meat dumped onto the Mexican market, and changed the nature by which hog are raised in Mexico, but also led to the increase of transport of hogs into China, and genetics work shows that H1N1 emerged out of strains that were circulating from both North America and Eurasia. In other words we did it ourselves, in 2009, this very thing that China has also been doing for several decades….”
If you’re going to pinpoint a place of origin, “our group views cities like New York, London, and Hong Kong to be the worst disease hotspots, by virtue of supplying the capital that drives the deforestation and development that leads to the spillover of these deadly pathogens”
Big Farms Make Big Flu, published by Monthly Review Press, and coauthor of Clear-Cutting Disease Control: Capital-Led Deforestation, Public Health Austerity, and Vector-Borne Infection. He has consulted with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.is an evolutionary epidemiologist with the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps. He is author of