“Whenever there is a catastrophe, some religious people inevitably ask, ‘Why didn’t God do something? Where was God when all those people died?’” –Tony Campolo
The two prevailing topics currently sweeping across the Western Visayas are the arrests of suspected drug offenders and confiscation of drugs, and the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV). The virus is on every media platform. However, before nCoV, the eruption of the Taal Volcano made headlines, which was no joke—we were a cinch away from “kingdom come.”
Underwater volcanoes are believed to have spewed hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which many scientists believed caused the worst mass extinction in history 250 million years ago, killing 90 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of land animals. Nevertheless, there’s an upside! According to Popular Science, a quarterly American publication focused on science and technology, bacteria and microorganisms continues to thrive in such conditions, which means there’s a good chance of hitting the restart button.
How quickly can a virus spread to every person on the planet? According to Popular Science, it could be one year.
“If it starts in New York, it’s going to be in London certainly within a week,” said Ira Longini, a biostatistician at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “From there, it will quickly travel to the rest of North America and Europe.”
However, in order for his forecasts to become reality, Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and immunologist at John Hopkins University, said the virus must be a strain of influenza, or the flu, which affects the respiratory tract, resulting in sneezing and coughing that makes it easy to infect anyone within a three-foot radius. It must also originate in a major city with plenty of airport traffic.
“With everybody expressing similar symptoms, we’d end up chasing, chasing, chasing, but always being a few steps behind, never really able to interrupt the spread,” he explained.
Can we survive?
Popular Science notes, a “quick, disastrous change” in earth’s climate could bring an early end.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates up to 70 percent of disasters worldwide are climate-related, affecting about 2.4 billion people over the last decade. If, as most surveyed scientists believe, global warming is set to escalate over the next century, drastic weather events like floods, droughts, and hurricane are likely to become more commonplace.
In the worst-case scenario, it will result in massive crop failure, drinking water shortages of, and widespread extinction—including, perhaps, our own.
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Before boarding his flight from South Korea’s Incheon International Airport to New York City earlier this week, Rommel Leal, a Filipino-American who returned home last month for the 2020 Dinagyang Festival, called me to ask if people in New York City were wearing the facemasks. I told him there are few but they were mostly in Chinatown areas in the Flushing, Lower Manhattan, and Sunset Park.
He said, when he left the Philippines, about 90 percent of the people in Manila were wearing masks.
“Filipinos take the coronavirus seriously—they are in a state of panic,” Leal said. “Many flights [to China and Hong Kong, and vice-versa] have been cancelled.”
He promised to buy masks and use them in New York.
Alex P. Vidal, who is based in New York City, used to be the editor for two local dailies in Iloilo./WDJ