Till recently a lot of us were convinced that the origin of the COVID-19 virus was the wild life market in Wuhan, China. I had written a short post on how nature comes to claim its own if the homo sapiens cross the line. Read here.
In a review of Yuval Noah Harari book Homo Deus on this blog, I had written ‘Among much else the author described in great detail how Homo sapiens proved themselves to be superior to animals. Hunter gatherers maintained a level of respect for the wild since their lives depended on it. The system worked to preserve the environment and the flora and fauna in it. The pastoralists learned the art of domestication of animals. The agricultural revolution after that took over the spaces of wild animals, through slash and burn cultivation at first, and with more settled agriculture later. The dependence on meat, fish and other wild animals as food, at its extreme, has led to the near extinction of many species.’ Nature has a way of returning our ‘gifts’ back to us. Much of the environmental disaster we see around us is a result of our own doing. And is this new virus a return gift too?
There is much more uncertainty now regarding the origins of the virus. Recently articles in popular media and in some scientific journals have stated that the virus is the result of a lab-leak in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIH), China. The lead scientist Shi Zheng-Li, a well-known and distinguished virologist, is under attack. I saw her speak on a television interview and she was very angry. Anyone would be under such circumstances given the amount of good work her lab has been doing for years. The intelligentsia is more or less split in two: one that believes that the spread of this virus is a natural phenomenon given our living styles and the other that believes that the lab experiment went wrong or was, worse still, deliberately leaked.
My cell biologist daughter has recently written a popular science piece on her blog on ‘The Origins of COVID-19: The truth may not excite you’. The scientific explanation is complex and still being investigated. She has attempted to demystify the issue and present it as simply as possible for a layperson to comprehend. Do read to take a call on how to interpret or understand the situation we find ourselves in today.