Shuswap Perspectives

Author Bernd Hermanski.jpg

About the Author

Bernd Hermanski was born in Europe but has lived in British Columbia ever since then. His education includes Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Master of Architecture degrees, both from UBC.  Since moving to Salmon Arm 37 years ago, he has practiced architecture in his own firm and has designed over 800 built projects in the region. He has also been heavily involved in the community, serving on various boards for over 30 years. He hopes to see the world become an ever better place for his daughters and grandchildren.

War of the Viruses 
by Bernd Hermanski

One of the more enlightening things I have learned amidst the overwhelming flood of COVID related reports is that when a virus mutates to a more successful strain, it is often to a LESS deadly form rather than a more deadly one, as I might have wrongly guessed. In hindsight it becomes obvious that the reason for this strategy is that it will result in greater long term survival rates due to the virus not killing off its hosts too efficiently. This should act as a lesson for us.

 

Nietzsche famously said: “The Earth has a skin, and that skin has diseases; one of its diseases is called Man”.

 

Humans have gone from being an interesting and clever addition to the faunal spectrum to a planet-threatening invasive species. We have progressed from being a pleasant little sun tan, to full blown skin cancer. It is sobering to remember that in the four-month period during which COVID-19 has killed around 240,000 of us, we have added 27,000,000 -- yes 27 million! -- additional people to our numbers. When the Black Plague of the 1300’s killed half of all western Europeans, it took 200 years for the population to get back to the previous number. If all 7.8 billion of us contracted the current virus, with an assumed 3% fatality rate, 230 million might die, but it would take less than three years to be back to the current population. In actuality, the current number would more likely not decline at all, as the virus would take a while to achieve such a result, during which time we will have more than kept pace with our relentless breeding habits.

 

By producing anti-bodies such as COVID, and many others, and allowing us to gradually cause a warming climate fever, Earth could be seen as attempting to rid herself of us, her most virulent disease. The lesson we need to learn from the virus community is that we, too, need to mutate to a less deadly version of ourselves. We need to spew less, move less, covet less, consume less, reproduce less. If, despite our vast inventiveness and adaptability we cannot figure out how to do that, we will soon be killing our host. But unlike the coronavirus, which can jump from bat to pangolin to human, we do not have another ready host available….

 

Along with that lesson, this pandemic is showing us how, with today’s technologies, we have become very closely interconnected, making us ever more like one giant organism devouring the planet. Through the pandemic-forced change in our behaviour, we are seeing that, while changing our organism is very painful, it feels like there is hope that it may be possible.

 

When the current threat starts to subside, it behooves us to conduct ourselves in new and better ways that prioritize the transformation of our species to one that is less greedy, less superstitious, less fearful of our neighbours, and less at odds with nature. We need to aim at being better-educated, more caring, and more responsible. We also need to elect leaders who will guide us in that direction. We need to slow down and flatten the much bigger curve that is the truly important one to our survival.

 

COVID-19 will likely not cause a discernible blip in the persistence of humanity, but our inability to change ourselves and curtail our pernicious behaviour, very well may.