…to disease, which is novel and unsettling in a era of advanced medicine that has allowed us to reasonably expect long lives.
It’s like going back a century, before antibiotics and a sophisticated understanding of disease, when you lived your life knowing that you were in a cosmic lottery–and that any moment an unexpected disease could take everything. That is of course still true today, but much, much, less likely than in previous eras.
Our first instinct in the current pandemic is to shut everything down and shelter for maximum protection. But it is hard to imagine humanity living like this for the next year or more in the absence of a vaccine or cure. So maybe, in and Age Of Pandemic, we will have to learn to live as our forbears lived: bravely and pursuing our goals while never really knowing how long we have.
Life will be less secure but perhaps more intense. Less predictable but perhaps more urgent. Lots of the less fortunate on the planet already live like this. Now everyone will.
Reduced ship traffic is yet one more way wildlife–marine mammals, especially whales in this case–is benefitting from the global pandemic lockdown:
“We have a generation of humpbacks that have never known a quiet ocean,” said Fournet, whose work has shown that the whales alter their calling behaviour in response to a noisy ocean.
Late April usually marks the beginning of the cruise ship season in south-east Alaska, with the boats docking at Vancouver before heading north. This year the health crisis has halted them.
“What we know about whales in south-east Alaska is that when it gets noisy they call less, and when boats go by they call less,” said Fournet.
“I expect what we might see is an opportunity for whales to have more conversation and to have more complex conversation.”
Long may it last.
The pandemic is making whaling a difficult business, and that is squeezing Icelandic whalers hard:
Icelandic whaling company IP-Utgerd announced April 24 that it is stopping whaling completely, while the country’s largest whaling firm, Hvalur hf., says it won’t be hunting any whales for the second year in a row.
IP-Utgerd, which mainly targeted minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), cited financial difficulties after no-fishing zones were extended off the Icelandic coast, forcing its boats to go further and further offshore. Hvalur, which hunts threatened fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) as well as minke whales, is ceasing operations because of stiff competition with Japan, among other reasons, according to Kristján Loftsson, the company’s CEO.
One company down. Another teetering.
…to get these markets and the wildlife trade shut down for good, then we are going in circles. Viral circles:
In a bustling meat market on a tourist island in Indonesia on 7 April, a pile of dead bats is laid out for sale on a table next to cuts of fresh pork while a butcher angrily shoos away a customer trying to take pictures of the scene on his iPhone.
Two thousand miles north and two days earlier, cats are crammed into filthy cages in a market in Guangxi province in southwest China where different species are piled haphazardly on top of each other and slaughtered side by side on a concrete floor splattered with dirt, blood and animal parts.
On 26 March, in the southern province of Guangdong neighbouring Hong Kong, a traditional medicine seller offers remedies made with bats and scorpions to treat ailments ranging from shoulder pain and rheumatism to mosquito bites.