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The Real Scandal Isn’t What China Did to Us. It’s What We Did to Ourselves.



Photo of people wearing face masks in Beijing
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The Trump administration is trying to whip the country into an anti-Chinese frenzy because the novel coronavirus might have been accidentally transmitted from a laboratory rather than a wet market. But surely the larger question we should be asking is why we have been seeing viruses jump from animals to humans with such frequency in recent years. SARS, MERS, Ebola, bird flu and swine flu all started as viruses in animals and then jumped to humans, unleashing deadly outbreaks. Why?

Peter Daszak is a disease ecologist and renowned “virus hunter.” He ventures into bat caves in full protective gear to get the animals’ saliva or blood to determine the origins of a virus. During a conversation with me, he was clear: “We are doing things every day that make pandemics more likely. We need to understand, this is not just nature. It is what we are doing to nature.”

Remember, most viruses come from animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three-quarters of new human diseases originate in animals.

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