Here we are. Holy f**k. Our toxic global consumer-driven house of cards is all so fragile (which I always suspected).
In many parts of the world, including mine, we are now in a collective quarantine, mostly prisoners in our own homes, and avoiding each other like the plague. I am wondering about the inner experience of all the beautiful beings I love, and all I can really do to support is write and pray. There is much talk of hand washing and social distancing, which are clearly important now, but little talk about the underlying conditions that fed into the coronavirus.
I am left asking...
What is the root cause of all this?
And what is the root cause of the root cause?
And what is the answer to this mess?
As Seasoned global health expert and author Alanna Shaikh explains in her powerful TEDx talk, humans are encroaching on the earth's last wild spaces through rapacious development. We are burning the Amazon rainforest to make room for beef ranching. The ever-expanding human presence into natural habitats, including the hunting and eating of wildlife, exposes people, domesticated animals, and livestock to all the bacteria and viruses that wildlife carries. Three-quarters of new diseases in humans come from animals. And climate change continues to damage our ecosystem, literally creating the "perfect storm" in which epidemics can thrive.
Live wildlife and animal markets with crowded, inhumane, and unsanitary conditions, like the one in Wuhan, China where the COVID-19 originated, create the ideal breeding ground for powerful zoonotic diseases to easily spread among multiple species, including humans. Drastic changes are direly needed at such markets, and it will require a deep rooted cultural shift. According to some traditional Chinese perspectives, eating the flesh of certain kinds of wildlife is believed to bestow the animals' strength and power. In addition, eating exotic and even endangered animals is considered to be a status symbol, especially among the elite.
It must be said that the painful and unhealthy practices such as those in Wuhan's live animal market are not exclusive to China. There are similar scenes in places all over the world. Even here in the US, our own factory farms are just as cruel and unhealthy; they are an ideal set up for a swift spread of pathogens through a large food supply.
Humans must also stop hunting animals to extinction; this brings about critical imbalances in the ecology. But people are invested. The exotic animal industry in China is worth more than $73 billion and employs more than one million people. Wildlife trafficking is one of the four most profitable illegal industries in the world. Chinese demand supports the trade, as rare animal parts like rhinoceros horn, tiger bone, and pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
On top of all this, the earth is densely populated by humans. Our highly mobile species takes about 50 million airlines flights per year. And much of the "modern world" already has low immunity due in part to poor gut health, insufficient nutrition, obesity, excess sugar intake, parasites, candida and other fungal diseases, low or no natural movement exercise, etc. So, that's tons of people with poor health, all mingling rapidly.
We have governments ruled by opportunistic corporations that will reap insane amounts of private profit by taking advantage of this pandemic. This kind of self-centered thinking is what got us into the mess in the first place, and it won't be how we get out of it.
Our collective attitude towards nature is one of domination and exploitation. We currently have a vile strain of capitalism that essentially devours its own food sources through unsustainable, soil-depleting agriculture—and poisons its own rivers to make a buck by any means necessary. But Gaia is intelligent beyond what humans can perceive with our evolutionarily young minds. You think the earth can't sense it when humans clear cut a forest or create other imbalances? We are just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding plant intelligence and the potential of mycelial networks to transmit sophisticated information through the ecosystem.
This is all an effective recipe for global disaster. COVID-19 should be no surprise.
The root cause seems to be that humans are abusing nature in a myriad of ways.
So what do we do now?
Many experts say that social distancing is important, as we learned from the 1918 Influenza epidemic. Social distancing can slow down public infection in order to avoid overwhelming our medical system. The tricky part is getting so many people to cooperate in this critical phase. As we are social creatures, healthy social connection actually supports immune function. Even in the midst of mass quarantine and social distancing, at least we can still utilize phones, apps, and computers to nurture our collective bonds.
And, yes, wash your hands—for at least 20 seconds—often. Keep surfaces clean. And use REAL hand sanitizers with 60%+ alcohol and natural essential oils, like the one made by Dr. Bronner's. Don't bother with that other largely ineffective chemical crap.
Yet, hand washing, hand sanitizers, and social distancing are not addressing the root causes of COVID-19. These practices are just bandaids—and the hand washing is certainly a good clean habit.
We can care for our health and immune system. I've been collaborating with medical professionals and master herbalists for ideas. Keep an eye out for my next newsletter that will detail the top supplements & natural supports for immunity that I want my own family to be taking now.
In the United States, we are now being asked to cover our faces, but also to save the N95 masks for medical professionals as we are now in a critical shortage of protective medical gear. Though a generic face mask won't entirely protect us from getting the virus, it can help to reduce risks of transmitting infection or breathing in particles.
What can truly help in the longterm: Build good health care systems in all countries, not just in financially wealthy ones, says Shaikh. Here, our illusory sense of separation truly hurts the collective, as pandemics know no borders. More, we need a model of collective health care that driven by social profit instead of private profit. Hopefully by now, we all know some of the devastating effects of big pharma such as the opioid epidemic, the horrific corruption with regards to psychiatric medications, and rampant overprescribing of antibiotics.
Cultivate greater national and regional self-sufficiency. China is now the world's leading manufacturer, and that includes many of the world's life saving medications. More local everything.
Let's start by respecting nature—and respecting ourselves as a part of nature.
We must stop supporting the torturous, excessive, and virulent live animal markets and factory farming practices. If one must eat animals, choose to support humane, healthy, regenerative farms—or hunt in a balanced and ecologically sensitive way. Know that exploitation of natural resources, animals, and people comes at a high price, sooner or later, for ourselves or for our future generations. Use only what we need. Preserve our wild spaces. Honor the ecosystem. Create sustainable human culture and economic systems that not only harmonize with nature, but also give back to nature (humans are that clever!). Procreate responsibly & reasonably. Remember that what hurts one, hurts all. Value social profit above private profit.
And HOW do you get a bunch of self-centered humans to want to do all that?
Heal the root cause of the root cause.
It is clear that we must heal the root pathologies that cause humans to abuse nature in the first place: greed, addiction to power over others, and the illusory sense of separation.
And HOW do we heal all THAT?
Well, one way I know of is experiencing a formidable dose of high quality earth-based psychedelic medicine—with a good facilitator, safe set & setting, and the support of a healthy community--where it is not illegal, of course, as much of the world is still lingering in the dark ages of the drug war. Scientific studies--and indigenous research since time immemorial—show that this work has the potential to increase empathy, awaken a sense of connectedness to the earth and ecosystem, and help foster the kind of mental health that can weather the circumstantial storms of life.
Will psychedelics help save the world? Well, humans just might, if entering the psychedelic experience with true participation & good integration, because sacred medicine work is 1% what happens in ceremony and 99% what we do with it.
Certainly, psychedelics are not the right option for everyone, for many reasons. And there are "many ways up the mountain" to glimpse unity consciousness, including 30 years of meditation. But with climate crisis and this pandemic, we don't have a lot of time. When more people have these sacred experiences, including people who have the worldly power and privilege to make real change, there are profound ripple effects for the collective.
Without any judgment or oversimplified hyper-spiritualized narratives, let's just look objectively at some of the interesting effects of the virus:
• Global warming slows down for a bit. Pollution clears. From February 3 to March 1, CO2 emissions were down by at least 25% because of the measures to contain the coronavirus.
• Store shelves are ransacked. Many items are out of stock. Every item we have is precious. Just when we were taking everything for granted, we finally are mindful of our consumption.
• Many of us suddenly have more time and space for introspection.
• We are staying at home with those closest to us. Our time and contact is more precious than ever.
• We are considering what matters most in life. For me, it is health, clean water, clean air, good food, making art and beauty, legacy, family, community, meaningful ceremonies, the opportunities to experience sacred medicine, and LOVE.
• All the problems that seemed so big a couple weeks ago now seem far less important.
• For those we cannot hug and/or see in person, we have the opportunity to connect on the more subtle energetic levels.
• The maniacal pace of "business as usual" shuts down for most of us (except for essential businesses, healthcare workers, Amazon.com, and the private companies who will benefit from billions in federal funds designated to fight the coronavirus!). We have a full stop on the collective obsession with profit-driven production and egoic achievement.
• We realize the importance of relative self-sufficiency in times of chaos: growing our own food and medicine; access to rural space away from big cities; and alternative sources of heat, energy, water.
• And I'm finally getting all that "spring cleaning" done, clearing space in my house—and my mind, literally letting go of what no longer serves.
I'd love to conclude with an objective and astute observation from the Bwiti tradition of Central West Africa:
"When we abuse nature, the price is misery."
And... we are nature, too.
That is not about punishment or dogma. That is simply a natural consequence. And we can receive it as both a sacred and practical teaching about ecological balance if we choose.
Certainly, I don't wish for any human to have this terrible virus. My heart and prayers goes out to all who are suffering.
May we enter of new era of greater respect for nature, ourselves, each other, and our exquisitely interconnected ecosystem.
And it's high time for that regenerative community farm a little further away from the city.