Theater of Cruelty

It's our own fault

DESTROYED NATURE: / Profit hunting, illegal wildlife trafficking and a growing population taking over natural areas provide the basis for disasters. Covid-19 is not the revenge of nature; we have done this to ourselves.


Suddenly I'm home in Berlin for the first time in two years. It's an evening in May; I'm sitting at the desk. In a canceled world. Looking out the window, where deciduous trees threaten to extinguish the light from the street lamp. Two and two people walk past. Some practice dance steps in the park. Otherwise – an imploded normality has stuck indefinitely.

One of the countless canceled events out there carries the name WILD11, directed by World Wilderness Congress. For 45 years, this international ecological forum has brought together leaders from all sectors of society – here are representatives from science, art, finance, activism, governments and indigenous peoples. The goal is to coordinate new solutions in defense of the planet's pristine nature.

In March this year they were to meet in Jaipur in India, where the local host organization Sanctuary Nature Foundation among other things, has had great success with its tiger project. Solutions have never rushed more in the midst of the climate chaos of heating, cooling, melting and storm. The emergency is compounded by the sixth mass extinction crisis, which undermines the biological basis of all of us. The main cause of the crisis is the man-made eradication of ecosystems, which in turn is a significant part of the pattern that brought us the covid-19 pandemic.

“People-wildlife contact creates ideal opportunities for viruses to jump
from a reduced game population to a rapidly increasing and accessible host – the human being. " Vance Martin and David Quammen

Ironically enough WILD11 victim of just the topic it had set out to address. Vance Martin, president of The Wild Foundation, describes the consequence of man's broken relationship with nature: “Covid-19 sprang from a legal 'wet' wildlife market in China. [It's called because animals are slaughtered on the spot, ed. note.].

Monkeys, bats, chickens, cats, turtles, snakes, frogs and other animals are stuffed into cages stacked on each other. Here they sit, radiating fear and dropping excrement on one another, and then being dragged to the butcher right by, where the ground is flooded with blood and mud. These 'wetlands' stem from a massive, poorly regulated industry consisting of commercial game trade in China and Southeast Asia. From here is sold everything that can walk, crawl, slide, jump, swim or fly. ”

Visit the farthest hooks

My husband and I did not start our long journey to document all types of crisis. On the contrary. We had furnished our off-road vehicles with travel kitchens, books, climbing equipment, snorkeling equipment, film and photo equipment, toilet and roof tent – all to experience a close-up of natural diversity in its purest, wildest form. We would visit and be self sufficient in the far corners.

We crossed the Namib Desert, hiked in Patagonia's highlands, sided with copulating lions in the Serengeti, found leopard in the Botswana trees, tracked desert elephants, oryx and a himba village, hailed koala and exotic birds, took nightly walks in the Amazon jungle, admired the Yellow colorful hot springs.

We probably also thought: See what's left before it disappears. 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians should be eliminated in the years 1970–2014. Certain mammals we have admittedly provided good conditions: There are now ten times as many domestic animals as wild animals and birds. At the same time, nature provides services worth $ 125 trillion, in addition to fresh air, clean water, food, medicine and energy. According to the economists.

North Africa was too dangerous and difficult to cross, so we flew the first leg while the car was shipped to Walvis Bay in Namibia. We landed in Senegal – a small West African coastal state with democratic governance and after what I had seen in brochures beautiful, long-limbed people.

It struck me as a nose stinger that we landed in the middle of a giant garbage dump. We had booked a house with a French Airbnb hostess, and stayed with her Senegalese family a few miles south of Dakar. Four small houses were located around a swimming pool and sheltered from the outside by walls. Outside, everything was covered in scrap and smelly garbage.

Garbage piles by the cities

Our hostess explained that she had taken up the matter with the mayor, to no avail. She developed depression. Eventually, she realized that this was a phenomenon she could do nothing about and retreated to her private oasis. For nineteen days, we considered women dressed in elegant robes, with proud attitudes and baskets on their heads wandering over the garbage piles as the most natural thing in the world.

How can people who emphasize beauty seem to adapt to grotesque living conditions without problems?

I wondered. How can people who emphasize beauty seem to adapt to grotesque living conditions without problems? If the case is culturally contingent, what is the explanation?

The situation was no different in the capital Dakar. Could it be that pre-industrial life – before plastic was ubiquitous and drinks delivered in metal cans – allowed waste to be thrown out the window, turning into useful compost? And that society has simply not kept up with recent times?

My wonders became sore findings the more we drove around Africa. The distances between the national parks were sadly large. We traveled endless stretches of depleted land, and every time we approached a city, the waste was increasing.

We changed the continent, and in South America the misery continued. The exception was the highlands of Chile, Peru and Bolivia, where llama and flamingo adorned magnificent panoramas. Only when we reached Canada and Alaska were we able to rest deeply in the experience of a solid natural context. Keeping the grizzly bears company while they roamed the salmon in the rivers in Katmai National Park was an experience of the rare.

Mass death in coral reefs

In Australia, environmental problems have a different face. There is room for everyone here. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Clean beaches, clean cities. Here the scrap gathers in the heads of the makers. For six months, the forest fires raged and destroyed an area larger than Ireland. 34 people died. More than 6000 houses burned down. One billion animals roamed, including one-third of all koalas. Lost habitat aggravates the situation.


In the famous Great Barrier Reef # - also known as one of the seven wonders of the world - researchers this year measured the highest temperatures since the measurements started. For the third time in five years, mass deaths occur among the coral reefs. This unique ecosystem – an important food source for locals – is visited by over two million tourists each year and contributes to Australia's economy with $ 6,5 billion. The organization Climate Council assume that climate warming over the next decade, Australian property owners will cost € 360 billion.

Australia is the world's largest coal exporter. The Scott Morrison government will not admit the link between the country's commitment to fossil fuels and the increase in disaster fires. The government still shows no signs of changing its climate policy, despite the protests of the population.

Increased commercialization and trading of game for profit.

Illegal trafficking of wild animals

But then a powerful, albeit invisible, monster emerges, and all of a sudden the whole world is off the hook. Understanding the bigger picture outside the "wet markets" in China is imperative. Vance Martin and researcher David Quammen (with the book spillover) states: "The bigger picture includes a long list: the illegal trade in wildlife, enhanced by massive poaching, often disguised through legal markets. Increased commercialization and trading of game for profit. The ever-increasing loss of habitat and wilderness due to human 'transformation' of untouched nature.

Earth's population, now eight billion, almost twelve, causing migration and invasion of areas that have been the planet's sanctuaries for thousands of years.

Planning of infrastructure, including twenty-five million kilometers of new roads over the next twenty years, which will further fragment the natural environment. Doubling of urban areas. All this increases contact between humans and wildlife to an unknown extent. It destroys nature that is our foundation of life and at the same time creates ideal opportunities for viruses that can jump from a reduced wildlife population to a rapidly growing and accessible host – man. ” The virus originates from live animals.

Invasion of nature

As I sit by the window this May Day and take in the rare city silence, I have plenty of time for reflection. In April, China's top executives proclaimed an immediate and permanent ban on trade and consumption of wild animals. They said the swift decision would help the country fight the coronavirus outbreak. They believed that illegal consumption and trafficking in wild animals would be "severely punished".

"Covid-19 is not the revenge of nature, we did it to ourselves." Thomas Lovejoy

Experts also state: "The latest theories that the virus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan City are highly unlikely." And that the virus must have been cultivated there, "is absolutely excluded, as we know it comes from living animals."

That the search for the clock virus continues is important, but do not let it distract from the main thing. Renowned biology professor Thomas Lovejoy invented the term "biodiversity" in 1980. He recently stated in The Guardian newspaper: "The pandemic is the consequence of our continuous and extensive invasion of nature and the gigantic, illegal trade in wildlife, and in particular the 'wet markets' in Asia and bush-meat markets in Africa. Covid-19 is not the revenge of nature; we've done it to ourselves. "

And to those who don't get enough of good advice, here's one that comes from pre-coronation times: "I see humanity's only chance of finally gaining two insights: it shares destiny with all the rest of humanity, and this one belongs to nature, not the other way around. ” Albert Einstein.

Photo: Ranveig Eckhoff

Ranveig Eckhoff
Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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