Covid-19 is what is known as a zoonotic disease, that is one which is passed on to humans from animals.
As such, it is merely the latest in a growing number of zoonotic diseases that have – quite literally – plagued us in recent years. Others include HIV, ebola, zika virus, SARS and bird flu.
It is simply too easy, as President Trump is trying to do, to lay the blame for the current pandemic entirely at the door of the Chinese government.
Don’t get me wrong: the Chinese government does bear considerable responsibility, both for failing to police the country’s so-called wet markets and for suppressing the initial alarm raised by physicians about the nature of the virus.
However, to leave it there would, in my view, be far too simplistic. We need to ask ourselves why it is that these new diseases keep hitting us, and why they are doing so with increasing frequency. If we fail to answer that fundamental question then we won’t address the root causes and will risk more and more deadly pandemics.
I believe one of the biggest contributors to this crisis is our diet.
Meat eating has grown exponentially over the past few decades, creating more pressure for grazing land, which in turn has triggered deforestation and rampant destruction of the natural world. Many of the zoonotic illnesses that have been passed to humans have come from wild animals, and our encroachment into their natural habitat has increased the frequency of contact between us and them.
Returning to “business as usual” after this pandemic is not a realistic or sensible option, because it will mean more pandemics. We need to understand and act upon the root cause of our plight: our own behaviours. Human health is intimately linked with that of other species and the health of the environment around us.
For our long term survival, instead of returning to “business as usual” we have to make significant personal and societal changes based upon principles of sustainability and resilience and the need to exist in harmony with our surroundings.
It can be done. Before Covid-19, governments around the world were saying that addressing the climate emergency in any way other than gradually was far too expensive. Yet look at the huge amount of money now being thrown into tackling this coronavirus pandemic. If we had invested just a fraction of that amount earlier in more sustainable ways of living we might just have avoided the human catastrophe unfolding before us.
Continuing the theme of my recent posts, this hearty, tasty stew was put together using ingredients I had available from my cupboard and fridge.
The ingredients and quantities can be varied according to what you have available, and if there is any of this delicious stew left over it can be frozen. Serve with good quality bread.
Mediterranean chickpea, pepper and olive stew
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
200 g spinach, washed and drained
1 aubergine, trimmed and cut into roughly 2 cm cubes
400 g can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
400 g can butter beans, rinsed and drained
400 g can organic chopped tomatoes
30 g continental lentils
250 g vegetable stock
12 black olives, stoned
15 g fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F gas mark 2). Place the chopped aubergine, chopped pepper and unskinned garlic cloves into a deep baking tray. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat everything. Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the aubergine is soft and slightly coloured. Remove the tray from the oven. When hot enough to handle, take out and squeeze the garlic cloves to release the cooked flesh from the middle. Mash this garlic flesh into a paste and set to one side.
2. Pour the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil into a large cooking pot and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft and translucent. Add the lentils, roast aubergine and pepper, the garlic paste, the dried basil, dried oregano, smoked paprika, chilli flakes and sea salt. Stir to combine, then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer, then add the chickpeas, butter beans and olives. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add the spinach and basil leaves and stir into the stew. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes until the spinach is completely wilted. Remove from the heat and serve hot.