The Wild Chiro on COVID-19

What is going to happen? When is this going to be over?…

I’ve been getting questions about the coronavirus a lot over the past weeks. COVID-19 has us all messed up. Whether you get sick or not doesn’t matter, the virus is still impacting you. Maybe you’re stuck at home. Maybe you’re not working anymore, wondering where you’re going to get the cash for rent next month or if you’ll have a business still after all this. This is the 9-11 of this generation. Society will not look the same after this. We can recover, but we will be different. America will look different.

How So?

What America looks like after this is up to us, and that’s why this post exists. How we make sense of this virus will determine if the new America is better or worse than the America of 2019. So lets put this virus in the context of the Wild Chiro’s perspective.

I’m going to cover what is different about COVID-19 compared to the “regular” flu, and put it in a historical perspective. There’s a lot of magical thinking being employed in regard to this virus and that needs to be unpacked. Then I’ll share my vision for a better America once this had passed.

Is it actually worse than the regular flu?

This is another question I’m getting a lot and a pretty simple one to answer – yes, it is, and I’ll expound using a historical example.

It’s a novel virus which means that nobody has been exposed to it before. It’s like what happened when smallpox came to America and afflicted the indigenous here. Our species has not built any immunity to it. That makes it worse than the regular flu, and is why we’re responding to it with calls for social isolation etc.

Some arguments I’ve heard against this are that the regular flu kills more people per year than this virus has and that it may have been in America for months already.

None of that matters.

Right now, in Detroit where I live, the hospital system is overwhelmed. Hospitals across the state of Michigan are being asked to devote 10% of their capacity to patients being transported from hospitals in the city and suburbs as they fill to capacity.

That doesn’t happen with the regular flu. There’s never been a shortage of ventilators in the Metro-Detroit hospital system with the regular flu. The simple fact that this virus is overwhelming medical systems around the world is proof that something extraordinary is happening.

Still, Indigenous Americans had it much worse with smallpox than we do now with coronavirus. After European contact they were completely devastated by the disease while the Europeans who brought it to them managed to deal with it as a population.

In Europe and Asia, mortality rates from smallpox were approximately 30%. In the Americas, mortality rates were higher due to the virgin soil phenomenon, in which indigenous populations were at a higher risk of being affected by epidemics because there had been no previous contact with the disease, preventing them from gaining some form of immunity. Estimates of mortality rates resulting from smallpox epidemics range between 38.5% for the Aztecs, 50% for the Piegan, Huron, Catawba, Cherokee, and Iroquois, 66% for the Omaha and Blackfeet, 90% for the Mandan, and 100% for the Taino. Smallpox epidemics affected the demography of the stricken populations for 100 to 150 years after the initial first infection.

Can you imagine if COVID-19 had a 60-90% mortality rate instead of 0.5-5%!

Disease risk is relative to ways of being

Smallpox developed out of the constant interaction of humans and farm animals early in human history. Hunter gatherers didn’t interact with animals as intimately as civilized people did. The Mandan and Iroquois never had to worry about smallpox because they didn’t have domestic animals living with them in one place for years at a time.

Thankfully, this virus isn’t anywhere near as deadly as smallpox, it’s a friendly warning shot from nature by comparison.

Disease LOVES crowded population centers that are trading hubs.

That’s the entire developed world now.

Pandemic diseases that crush populations are normal for crowded agricultural societies like ours. This isn’t something anomalous. The fact that we had such a long run — over 100 years since our last major pandemic like this — that is the anomaly.

It’s amazing we’ve had the run of comfort that we have had. Most of the diseases we deal with today are diseases we bring upon ourselves. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are all considered diseases of lifestyle, which means they are also preventable to a great degree by improving our lifestyle choices.

COVID-19 isn’t a disease of personal lifestyle, it’s a disease of our collective lifestyle. It’s the natural outcome of overcrowding and international travel. It’s not about personal choices, it’s about collective choices.

It’s also showing us our weak spots.

The collective choices we made that lead to the emergence of COVID-19 are going to lead to the emergence of even more novel viruses over time. How we structure our society will determine how well we adapt to those viruses. Our financial system is extremely stressed. Our healthcare system isn’t prepared to deal with a massive influx of the critically ill. The supply chain isn’t flexible enough to respond in time. We are all having to reduce our activity in ways that stress the economic system as a whole, and our personal finances, jobs and businesses individually.

Magical Thinking…

One of the most predictable results of this crisis has been seeing people engage in magical thinking about the virus. At times when life doesn’t make sense, where we are powerless or uncertain, we often appeal to magical thought as a tool for action and sense making. I see this happening in several different ways.

The simplest is ignoring the reality of this situation through positive thinking without taking any real positive actions. For example, believing that they are immune to the virus so long as they stay in a positive state of mind, but not taking the time to wash their hands. It’s overwhelming to deal with reality at times, so we choose to imagine everything will be okay instead.

As the magical thinking gets a bit more complex we see the conspiracy theories come into play. I’ve got to admit, some of the conspiracy theories around this virus are really, really good. Most are absurdly over the top. They cannot all be correct, and it’s possible that none of them are.

But we love conspiracy theories anyway. Ironically, it’s comforting to think that there is a group of evildoers out there foiling us all from experiencing a Golden Age. If only we could shed light upon their dark hidden plans, exposing and expunging them, we could live the lives we’ve always dreamed of. This complex fantasy is way better than the possibility that nobody is really in control, or that the people we elect to govern us are doing their best and it’s still not enough to kickstart the Golden Age.

Even more emotionally overwhelming is the possibility that our elected leaders are decent people as individuals, yet are participating in a corrupt system that we all accept because the momentum of culture has prevented us from seeing any alternative.

If there is a dark enemy with an occult agenda, then there is hope — we could find and defeat them. An army of secretive heroes could coalesce to expel them. If there isn’t a hidden enemy, the achievement of the Golden Age is our responsibility as individuals working to reshape our collective culture.

What would The Wild Chiro do differently?

This virus and its chaos are an opportunity for reorganizing our world into something new and better. The degree of chaos will be proportional to the opportunity for reorganization. This process will be painful. The degree of pain we experience will be equal to the scale we can rebuild anew.

Fire & Ecological Renewal

When ecosystems experience moderate stressors, they tend to recover with even greater abundance and diversity than they had before the stressor. This could be the situation we find ourselves in right now with this virus.

The sheer fragility of our system has become apparent. We must find new paths that create a more resilient society by refocusing upon the ways that we use energy and resources.

Quickly after declaring a state of emergency, trillions of dollars of loans were made to financial institutions. The reasons for that are, no doubt, complex, but the simple implication is that our financial system is being stressed to the point that its failure is possible; by a virus with .5-5% mortality rate.

The most fragile natural systems are those that are the least diverse and have the fewest number of energy cycles. A field of corn requires constant upkeep by a farmer to prevent its destruction by pests and weather. It is one plant with no natural system to support it. A forest can survive without any help. It is a robust collection of thousands of species all interacting in ways that increase it’s resilience.

While I’ve enjoyed the fabulous toilet paper memes over the past week, I’ve also realized how dependent we are upon low wage workers stocking shelves at the grocery store. My heart goes out to all the people making $9 an hour at the grocery store being exposed to this virus who may or may not have any real health care coverage.

Most of them are young, they will fare well if infected with this virus, but that is this virus. If the virus was something more like smallpox, would we still have people willing to unload trucks and stock shelves for wages that require multiple jobs or government assistance for survival?

We need to do better, we need to be more resilient. We need more diversity in our economy. It’s too much the same from coast to coast. The same trucks ship the same products from the same major manufacturers throughout the entire nation. The dependence on one supply chain is unsustainable in a crisis that impacts us the same way smallpox impacted the indigenous Americans.

What would that look like?

One simple solution solves multiple problems: create more local food supply chains. When most of us get our food from grocery stores that stock food produced by a few large corporations far away, we are dependent and fragile. When we have multiple local markets, with small local producers, we are far more resilient and energy independent.

Having local farms that use permaculture principles and sell directly to consumer or through numerous small local grocers ensures that food will be available. That food can also be produced, transported, and sold without requiring large amounts of fossil fuels.

We must understand our significance within the natural world. Part of our fragility comes from thinking that human beings are the ultimate end goal of evolution. We aren’t. The end goal is the maximal transformation of solar energy by living matter.

That statement is based off my reading of research on ecosystem thermodynamics. I’ve written more about that in my books The Thermodynamic Subluxation and Operating System Nature: The Birth of The Tradition.

Humans can play a tremendous role in this energy transformation, but the job is ultimately accomplished by plant life. Animals exist to transport plant life around the planet and enhance the fertility of the soil after we pass. This is the basic purpose of human life from the thermodynamic perspective.

This isn’t to say that humanity is pointless or lacking in intrinsic value. Our culture, our way of interacting as a species is valuable. We enrich or impoverish the world through the types of culture we create. When we create healthy and sustainable cultures, the humans within those cultures flourish, and the landscapes surrounding them are enriched as well. We belong here, as part of the natural world.

Art, science, philosophy, and the rest of the humanities are not useless. They play a tremendous role in contributing to the survival value and adaptability of our species. The humanities are there to support us, and we should be here to support Planet Earth.

However, we humans are likely to disappear from this planet unless we find ways to become as adaptable and thermodynamically congruent as the species on this planet that have come through the past great extinction events intact.

We’re not guaranteed a place here in the future, but we can earn one.

Human’s are worthy of our place as the worlds greatest hyper-keystone species. The humanities are as much a tool for us to fulfill our role as servants and stewards of the natural world as they are tools of the advancement of human pleasure and true civilization.

What action steps should we take?

  • Do your best to survive this virus intact and whole.
  • Act with humanity in a benevolent manner as possible to preserve the life, wholeness and the dignity of your fellow human beings.
  • Begin pondering what an ecologically-focused human society would look like.

This is about us as a cultural whole. It’s not my place to lay out the blueprint for the Golden Age and tell everyone what they need to do to get us there. Frankly, I believe the world could be a much better place and I am asking for your help to imagine and act that world into being with me.

I’m reminded of an interview with Arch Druid John Michael Greer in which he said something along the lines of “If there were to be a revolution and the current leaders were all thrown out, we’d replicate nearly the exact system we have now in a matter of months unless our collective mindset changes.”

An ecologically congruent and sustainable world that enriches all participants is not achievable until our mindset is in alignment with that outcome.

I write to share information in way that helps us shift a perspective stuck by the momentum of culture. These blogs and my books are intended to provide tools that can create the sovereignty of mind, vitality of the body and passion of the heart we will need to imagine and build a new world as the current one experiences crisis after crisis… aka: opportunity for transformation after opportunity.

Three Sources of information on sustainability and resilience I have found valuable are:

  • Sepp Holzer on Permaculture, a method of creating resilient and productive local food systems.
  • Charles Eisenstein on Sacred Economics, a more resilient and diverse approach to transactions
  • M. Kat Anderson’s Tending The Wild, an exploration of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge used by the indigenous tribes of California to make it the land of abundance it was known as by early settlers.

The Wild Chiro 2020


2 Responses to “The Wild Chiro on COVID-19

  • Wow I have read so much, listened to so much, watched do much these past weeks. Overwhelming to say the least, I just say this is probably the best I read thus so far.
    I agree with you 100% I will do my best to pass this message in to as many as I can. We all have a responsibility to create the change we want to see, it’s time to understand the power we have within to live the life that supports everyone and everything.
    Tri Hita Karna as thry call it in Bali.

    Thank you and keep writing please

    • thewildchiro
      1 year ago

      Thank you for the kind words Andréa! I was perusing your webpage for your retreat and it looks absolutely magical. There’s some new writing brewing as I’m making sense of what’s happening here in Detroit this week so I may be sharing my take on the protests going on here in the USA soon

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