Deaths and consequences: COVID-19 vs. Environmental problems

Those were the days when Corona was just an imported beer that I never drank at the bar… (Honestly, I just like cider better.)

Corona, Corona, Corona: No matter which newspaper you open or which TV channel you turn on, everywhere you hear about THE virus. I was thinking whether I really needed to write about it myself. Is that necessary? Definitely yes. Because in the current reporting essential information and comparisons are missing.

This article will illuminate the topic from a different angle than in other media.

Part I – Facts and figures about the coronavirus

Human deaths

Officially there are 168 019 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. Of these 6610 have died [1] (as of 16.03.2020). The population worldwide is known to number 7.78 billion people [2].

We can determine the following with simple calculations:

The lethality rate is around 3.9%. (6610/168019).

So far, about 2.1*10-5 people are infected.

On 18.03.2020 it looks as follows:

198 214 infected, 7965 dead

Letality rate: 4%.

Infected: 2.5*10-5

The figures look particularly worrying as I compare two successive days. I do not want to trivialise the virus in my further comparisons either. We don’t know exactly how things will continue – but in the next few days and weeks we will most probably see further increases due to the long incubation period. The peak of the wave of infection has not yet been reached in all countries.

Even if it seems so now – people are not dying just because of the coronavirus but also because of traffic accidents or environmental problems such as smog.

Deaths caused by man-made environmental problems

Therefore, I have looked at the deaths in these categories for comparison:

According to a study by the WHO, 7 million people die every year as a result of polluted air and smog. Overall, 90% of people worldwide breathe air that is too polluted [3]. I have experienced myself how this restricts the quality of life. During the smog days in Bangkok I could not do sports outside and used a mask for the way from my apartment to the university. This is not the way I want anyone to live.

In addition, around 3.4 million people die every year from polluted water. Today, 323 million people are already at risk of contracting diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever from polluted water [4].

Climate change is responsible for many more deaths worldwide: The WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050 250,000 more people will die each year as a result of heat waves, hurricanes and other effects of climate change [5]. Currently, even in central Europe, thousands of people are dying every year due to the heat waves in summer.

A study by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution speaks of a total of 8.3 million deaths due to environmental pollution per year[6] (2017), which is not completely consistent with the figures mentioned above. This is probably due to a different definition of environmental pollution.

Nevertheless, this study also states that one in seven deaths is caused by environmental pollution or its consequences!

Animal deaths due to pollution and slaughter

What is not even included in all these figures: The animals that are also dying from increasing environmental pollution and climate change.

It is bad enough that animals die in forest fires or due to destruction of their livelihoods. But animals that are deliberately killed so that people can eat cheap meat, milk and eggs every day are also very rarely mentioned.

Worldwide, 45 billion animals were slaughtered for human consumption – in 1998 [7]!

By 2014, we already count 60 billion animals that lost their lives because humans consumed them and their “products” [8]. I could not find reliable for this year, but overall they are still augmenting.

Nobody is interested in these deaths. Nobody reports about it. And this despite the fact that this disproportionate consumption of animal „products“ aggravates climate change and many other environmental problems such as desertification, food waste, energy consumption, …

No newspaper reports the 19 178 smog deaths daily. I do not read any newspaper article reporting about the 164 million animals killed daily for human consumption,.

But every single case of coronavirus is meticulously reported in the media and broadcasted to the whole world.

People’s lifestyles have also changed dramatically: Entire countries are closed, borders are sealed. People buy hamsters and stay at home except for urgently needed supplies.

Why do we change our way of life so much because of a pandemic, but are not prepared to do it for phenomena that threaten our lives just as much?

Why don’t states and people draw consequences from the ongoing environmental destruction and act with such branchial methods against it, like currently against the coronavirus?

Under „normal“ circumstances, no one would have pushed through such a dramatic decline in air traffic due to climate change. Under „normal“ circumstances, no one would have managed to reduce air traffic so drastically because of climate change. No one could have stopped the ongoing destruction of the rainforest. Now we face a pandemic – and suddenly entire cities have been sealed off and assembly bans imposed.

These questions are not intended to minimize the danger of the still relatively unknown pathogen. There is no doubt that drastic measures, which also restrict western democracies, are useful in the short term to stop the further spread of the pathogen.

However, drastic measures would be just as useful to combat urgent environmental problems mentioned above. If we stop climate change and ban smog from our cities, we can save many lives, money and give our children and our planet the future they deserve.

With my argumentation, I just want to show that overall, our lives are more threatened by our irresponsible lifestyle every day than by the virus.

Please leave a comment about how you liked this very spontaneous article and what you think about the problem. Maybe I will publish more articles on this topic, which is still keeping the world in suspense.


Titel photo: Many thanks to Pete Linforth! (Pixabay)









2 Kommentare

  1. Moin Kristina,
    die Zahlen sind beeindruckend und regen mich zum nachdenken an. Trotzdem denke ich, dass man Todesfälle und statistische Zahlen nicht einfach so miteinander vergleichen kann bzw. als ausschließliche Grundlage für eine Handlungsentscheidung nehmen kann. Wir müssen mehr tun, um unsere Umwelt zu schützen UND wir müssen Menschen gegen eine Infektion schützen, oder? Aber ich stimme dir zu: wir sollten aus der Krise lernen. So oder so müssen wir unseren Konsum deutlich(!) reduzieren. Corona zeigt, dass wir auch mit sehr viel weniger Konsum und Mobilität leben können. Jetzt müssen wir es nur noch dauerhaft umsetzen. LG, Martin

    Gefällt mir

    1. Hi Martin,
      danke für deinen Kommentar. Die Zahlen sind jetzt natürlich auch schon etwas veraltet. Ich wollte damit einfach nur zeigen, wie stark bei dieser Epidemie gehandelt wird, wie wenig wir jedoch gegen andere Probleme auf dieser Erde tun, die Menschen genauso gefährden. Meines Erachtens sind die ökonomischen, ökologischen und sozialen Folgen der Reaktion auf diese Pandemie noch wesentlich weitreichender als die Todeszahlen.
      Ich hoffe ebenso, dass wir darauf lernen können, Konsum zu reduzieren und bewusster zu konsumieren.
      Ein sehr interessanter Artikel, der unser ganzes Mindset hinterfragt, ist auch dieser hier:
      LG Kristina

      Gefällt mir

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