You thought the World Health Organization’s job was direct and coordinate authority on global pandemics? Forget it. Last month, the WHO produced its "Manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19." Far from addressing its own lamentable failure to halt the spread of the virus, the document is little more than a demand for a global Green New Deal dolled up in the garb of public health.
The pandemic, WHO’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, tells us, is a reminder of “the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet.” Efforts to make the world safer from another one are doomed unless they address "the critical interface between people and pathogens." Human pressure on the environment, the WHO claims, increases the risk of new infectious diseases. Recovery plans from the pandemic should therefore “lessen our impact on the environment, so as to reduce the risk at source,” as if new deadly viruses are randomly transmitted from wild animals to people wandering through forests, rather than in Chinese wet markets or, in some instances, even cultivated in research labs.
Arguing for a quick energy transition, the WHO says the costs of renewable energy are dropping. Exactly why, say, burning coal carries a higher risk of unleashing the next pandemic rather than cutting down forests from whence the COVID-19 virus supposedly came, in order to make way for wind farms, the WHO doesn’t say. As Michael Moore’s movie "Planet of the Humans" vividly shows, wind and solar require enormous land-takes and have huge environmental impacts.
But the WHO’s recovery manifesto isn’t about science and rationality. It’s the soul of Thomas Malthus entering public health. Restoring a pristine environment is the goal, humanity becomes the problem, and industrialization – by harnessing nature for the purpose of human flourishing – is the original sin. The WHO’s message that environmental degradation caused the pandemic is exactly what influential audiences in the West want to hear.
“Right now, our relationship with nature is broken,” the World Economic Forum says. “The best way to avoid future pandemics?” it asks, then answers: "Protect the natural world.” Is this science or superstition? People in 14th century Europe lived far closer to nature than us. They also had much shorter lives and experienced the world’s worst-ever pandemic. “It traveled at terrifying speed, so fast it would strike a village or a town almost as soon as news arrived that the pestilence was near,” Ben Gummer, a former British government minister and author of “The Scourging Angel: The Black Death in the British Isles,” writes in a recent essay on why life after COVID-19 will be much the same as life before it.
Using a super-computer to explain the spread of the disease – it covered 3,000 miles in 18 months – Gummer concluded that the Black Death was transmitted between people and not by rats, most likely by touch and breath. Also similar to COVID-19 are the narratives used to explain the pestilence: "A dangerous imbalance in nature, a corruption that reflected the sinfulness of men and women,” something that could only be put right “by God’s divine justice, and the purgative means was this cleansing pandemic.”
Sound familiar? “Whether you are a member of the global metropolitan elite or a credulous boomer rube,” Gummer writes, “there is a meta-explanation to suit your taste.” An age informed by science should be able to focus exclusively on scientific explanations. But science and reason are nothing compared to the enduring Malthusian substructure of sin, punishment and redemption that underpins the modern environmental movement’s belief in pestilence and catastrophe as nature’s just punishment for a sinful civilization.
“Cui bono” — who benefits? Dr. Tedros is circling the wagons and doing his alleged allies in Beijing a favor. By blaming the pandemic on humanity’s – for that, read “the West’s” – willful violation of nature, it lets Beijing off the hook for covering up the early spread of the virus and blanks out the much-debated possibility that the novel coronavirus had been cultured in a laboratory. Dr. Tedros knows what he’s doing. The elites in the West are being played like a Stradivarius so the lessons from the pandemic go unexamined.
Either Dr. Tedros goes, or it’s time to defund the WHO.
Rupert Darwall is a senior fellow at RealClearFoundation, a nonprofit organization in partnership with RealClear Media Group that reports and analyzes public policy and civic issues. He is the author of numerous books including "The Climate Noose" (2020) and “Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex” (2017). A strategy consultant and policy analyst, he was a special adviser to the United Kingdom’s chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister John Major.