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Seneca and the Virus: Why does the Pandemic Grow and Decline?

Seneca and the Virus: Why does the Pandemic Grow and Decline?


Seneca, the Roman philosopher, knew the term “virus,” that for him had the meaning of our term “poison.” But of course, he had no idea that a virus, intended in the modern sense, was a microscopic creature reproducing inside host cell. He also lived in a time, the 1st century AD, when major epidemics were virtually unknown. It was only more than one century after his death that a major pandemic, the Antonine Plague, would hit the Roman Empire.

But Seneca was a fine observer of nature and when he said that “ruin is rapid” he surely had in mind, among many other things, how fast a healthy person could be hit by a disease and die. Of course, Seneca had no mathematical tools that would allow him to propose a quantitative epidemiological theory, but his observation, that I have been calling the “Seneca Effect,” remains valid. Not only people can be quickly killed by diseases, but even epidemics often follow the Seneca Curve, growing, peaking, and declining.

Of course, the concepts of growth and collapse depend on the point of view. In many cases one man’s fortune is someone else’s ruin. What we see as a good thing, the end of an epidemic, is a collapse seen from the side of the virus (or bacteria, or whatever). But, then, why do epidemics flare up and then subside? It is a fascinating story that has to do with how complex systems behave. To tell it, we have to start from the beginning.

One thing that you may have noted about the current Covid-19 pandemic is the remarkable ignorance not just of the general public about epidemiology, but also of many of the highly touted experts. Just note how many people said that the epidemic grows “exponentially.”…

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Exclusive: Sea Shepherd founder warns destruction of planet ‘out of control’

Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson has warned human destruction of ecosystems is “out of control” and impacting us as a species.

“This is not about saving planet Earth,” he said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News Australia.

“This is about saving ourselves from ourselves.”

Describing the world as “completely out of balance”, the veteran environmental campaigner argues that humans need to realise they are dependent on other species for survival.

A screenshot of Paul Watson on Zoom. His office can be seen in the background.
Captain Paul Watson spoke to Yahoo News Australia via Zoom from his base in New York City. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Covid-19 a sign of worse to come warns Sea Shepherd founder

On Captain Watson’s mind right now is the survival of the tiny phytoplankton which live in our oceans – organisms most people have never heard of.

The diverse group of microorganisms play a role as significant as forests in transforming the planet’s carbon dioxide into oxygen and are the basis of ocean food webs.

Life on Earth depends on their existence, and a small drop in number could have devastating consequences.

Scientists fear they are under threat from rising ocean temperatures.

A Japanese whaling vessel and a Sea Shepherd boat crashing into one another.
Sea Shepherd’s aggressive tactics were critical in driving Japanese whalers out of the Southern Ocean. Source: Sea Shepherd

While the decline of the oceans’ phytoplankton may be hard to see from our busy lives on land, Captain Watson points to Covid-19 as a more obvious example of human impact on the planet.

Speaking from his base in the United States, where half a million people have died from the virus, he has seen its impact first-hand.

He predicts the zoonotic coronavirus is a harbinger of worse things to come.

As the permafrost melts and forests are destroyed, he is concerned new viruses that were once locked away under ice or in the blood of animal hosts risk coming into contact with humans.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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