NATO a troublemaking anachronism

Make Putin happy

War may be a stupid capitulation to reptilian impulses (apologies to the reptiles), but once it breaks out, superior brutality, craftiness and arrogance will win the day. In contrast, peaceful coexistence requires true diligence and a humble willingness to examine circumstances that can lead to conflict.

Which is the more exciting narrative, eh? And what about the Russo-Ukraine war?

A prevailing narrative in the West holds that Vladimir Putin is a vile and ruthless Russian expansionist intent on subjugating Ukraine to fulfill historic territorial dreams. Arguably, this view is a contemporary version of Cold War anti-communism. It is simple, easy to understand, and identifies a bad guy.

An alternate narrative holds that the US-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an expansionist military alliance that has heedlessly exacerbated cultural and security conflicts that arose between Ukraine and Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. When the Cold War ended, NATO’s original purpose ended with it, but the alliance carried on, going so far as to claim a new purpose. In the aftermath of 9/11, it saw itself as a deterrent to rogue entities in the Middle East. Really.

Ukraine’s relationship with NATO began soon after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. In that same year, Ukraine joined the NATO-sponsored North Atlantic Cooperation Council and, in 1994, joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. At a NATO summit in 2008, and over strong objections from Russia, US delegates voiced their ongoing interest in having Ukraine join the alliance, albeit once certain conditions of membership were met. The Ukrainian government continued its efforts to meet those conditions, but dropped the idea after a Russia-friendly government, led by Viktor Yanukovych, was elected in 2010. Yanukovych’s new government was opting for strategic neutrality.

Ukraine is a culturally diverse country with Ukrainian and Russian being its two main languages, reflecting deep historical ties between the two cultures. In terms of culture, western Ukraine leans toward Europe while eastern Ukraine leans toward Russia. No big deal. But when military interests are added, the situation becomes hazardous.

In late 2013, Ukrainian President Yanukovych decided not to pursue plans for closer economic ties with Europe, opting instead for an economic deal offered by Vladimir Putin. This sparked months of demonstrations in Kyiv, centered around Maidan Square. The demonstrators had various ideological agendas, but ultra-nationalist, neo-Nazi factions are thought to have turned things violent. In February 2014, the demonstrations culminated in the Revolution of Dignity and the overthrow of Ukraine’s government. Yanukovych fled to Russia.

Reactions in the autonomous region of Crimea were immediate. Militia groups occupied the Crimean parliament. Russian special forces units in unmarked uniforms appeared in city streets, surrounded Ukrainian military bases, and occupied major airports. Meanwhile Crimea’s Russian-leaning parliament hastily voted to hold a referendum. which would allow predominantly Russian-speaking Crimeans to chose whether to remain part of Ukraine or join Russia. The government in Kyiv was widely viewed as unstable and corrupt. Crimeans voted to join Russia.

The legitimacy and results of the referendum were disputed, but that didn’t stop Russia from taking administrative control of the region. That too was disputed. While Russia was welcoming Crimea’s return to the motherland, all but a dozen or so UN member states viewed Russia’s takeover as an illegal annexation. It is important to note that Crimea was under administrative control of the Russian SFSR until 1954, when the USSR’s Supreme Soviet handed the region over to the Ukraine SSR, in what was then considered a largely symbolic gesture by Nikita Khrushchev.

Meanwhile, in April 2014, Russian speaking radicals took over numerous government security offices in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. They later announced referenda to decide whether to stay with Kyiv, declare independence, or join Russia. The new Ukrainian government viewed the Donbas radicals as terrorists and sent in the armed forces. The insurgents accepted covert military aid from Russia. In the simmering civil war that followed and continues to the present, thousands in the Donbas region died.

In late 2014, Russia’s takeover of Crimea and its unofficial military activity in Donbas spurred the Ukrainian government to prioritize integration with the European Union, membership in NATO, and the taking back of Crimea. In 2019, Ukraine amended its constitution to make joining NATO a strategic foreign and security policy objective.

Remembering repeated invasions from Western Europe over several centuries, and cognizant of American regime change adventurism, Russia has always made it clear that Ukraine, a former republic in the Soviet Union and cradle of Russian culture, could not become part of a Western military alliance. Russia has never shied away from military force to back its political positions and its opposition to Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO is no exception. Some high-ranking officials in the US government have always known this, but US foreign policy, and NATO, have inched forward.

It is practically impossible for the average person to sort out the tangled web of political mistrust, overblown nationalism and knee-jerk militarism that led to the tragic and unexpected invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. For diplomats, reconciling pro-American and anti-Russian narratives could not be more difficult. Sober thought is carried away by the blizzard of double standards blowing full force through government chambers around the world. Shock and awe in Bagdad. Military operations in Ukraine. Try to figure it out.

Like solving the climate crisis and dealing effectively with COVID-19, a peaceful solution to the Russo-Ukraine war (and everywhere else for that matter) demands an intelligence that’s in short supply. But one thing is clear: NATO is a Cold War anachronism and its mere existence can only do one thing: usher back the stupidity and waste of a bygone era.

LINKS

New Ukraine Coalition Agreed, Sets NATO As Priority

NATO relations with Ukraine

Basically, the transition to a zero carbon world is straightforward

no fossil fuel combustion

The prevailing narrative regarding climate change holds that the international community can avoid social, economic and environmental disaster by becoming carbon neutral as quickly as possible. This can be achieved with an array of measures such as carbon taxes, phasing out fossil fuel production, planting trees, and using public transit. Some measures, such as overhauling capitalism, may be appropriate but improbable in the near term. Taken together, such measures can seem to go in different directions and express certain ideological biases. But it can also be said that they have a two-part principle in common. One, stop greenhouse gas pollution and two, clean it up. In basic practical terms, this entails replacing fossil fuel-based energy systems and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The prospect of replacing fossil fuel-based energy systems can appear daunting because these systems are ubiquitous and embedded. They represent decades of investment and committment. They comprise the world’s inventory of coal-fired electricity plants, petroleum-powered automobiles, aircraft, ships and locomotives, fossil fuel-powered cement plants and steel mills, gas and oil furnaces, gas stoves, and gas-powered hand tools. Together they produce about 75 percent of global greenhouse gas pollution. When we replace the thermal energy conversion devices that power these technologies we will have accomplished an enormous technical task. And we will have stopped most global greenhouse gas pollution.

Progress is being made in that direction. For example, the automotive industry is replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors in the world’s fleet of about a billion motor vehicles. Grid operators worldwide are aiming to retire several thousand coal, oil or natural gas-fired steam turbines that drive electricity generators. Wind turbines, solar arrays, geothermal plants and possibly fourth generation nuclear reactors will take their place. Hardware stores are selling electric chain saws.

In short, there is a global effort to replace energy conversion devices that emit carbon dioxide pollution with energy conversion devices that do not. Simple enough. Complexity enters the picture as these new devices are integrated with existing infrastructure. Turns out that your new car will look much as always, but the drive train will be electric. Your kettle will boil on electricity generated by wind turbines.

Energy transitions have happened before. In the last century, internal combustion engines replaced horses, and diesel-electric locomotives replaced coal-fired steam engines. France transitioned to nuclear-powered electricity generation. These events were spontaneous and occurred at their own pace with little or no economic disruption. They were comparatively limited in scope, occurring in one specific sector such as transportation, or carried out in one jurisdiction.

In contrast, 21st Century energy transition is global. It reaches into all energy-intensive sectors of the world economy. At the same time it intends to replace the energy devices that powered the development of the comfortable and convenient world we know.

Like all transitions, though, there is a time lag involved, a phase-out/phase-in process. This requires careful management of energy systems so the economy continues to function and there is energy to carry out transition. Energy supplies must be maintained for the outgoing system as well as the incoming system. For a while, pipelines will coexist with EV charging stations.

While energy transition aims to stop carbon dioxide pollution, it is clearly necessary to clean up carbon dioxide pollution – invisible, odorless and difficult to isolate as it may be. Not a problem, as it turns out. A number of technologies are in the works for “negative emissions” – in other words removing accumulated CO2 directly from the air. One of them, a direct air capture venture in Canada, is at the industrial scale up stage. Another, the STEP process, appears capable of capturing and disposing of carbon dioxide at the volume and speed necessary to prevent catastrophic warming of the atmosphere.

The role of government

It is important to remember that such developments are formulated in laboratories, board rooms and factories as much as in the chambers of government. Automobile manufacturers build electric propulsion systems. Electric utilities build wind and solar farms. Progressive government act as facilitators. They manage the so-called climate crisis by supporting industrial initiative, innovation and market diffusion of zero-carbon energy devices and systems.

Governments that enact policy to support energy transition and carbon dioxide removal can be confident they are on track. China, the UK and a few other jurisdictions have recently set dates for phasing out internal combustion engines in automobiles. The state of Oregon changed public utility regulations to allow the sale of electricity at roadside EV charging stations. Government grants have helped demonstrate and scale up atmospheric carbon dioxide removal in several jurisdictions.

If industry doesn’t take the hint, governments may have to go further. Phasing in zero-carbon energy conversion devices at the maximum possible speed may require the kind of direct control that mobilized human and industrial resources to fight two world wars.

Whatever happens, sustained and clear-headed cooperation among governments, people and the private sector is essential.

Carbon dioxide removal: the other essential solution to the climate crisis

cleaning up carbon dioxide

While the world struggles to end greenhouse gas pollution, a handful of innovators are developing ways to clean it up. Their efforts could reverse climate change.

The atmosphere is a true marvel of engineering – a gaseous cocoon that makes life possible on earth. Nitrogen, oxygen and ozone prevent dangerous, high frequency cosmic radiation from reaching the earth’s surface. At the same time, the atmosphere allows visible, life-giving frequencies of sunlight to pass through a kind of window (illustration below).

Atmospheric transparency to electromagnetic radiation
Atmospheric transparency to various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. Click to enlarge. Image source: NASA

The atmosphere also maintains temperatures ideal for life. Carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane absorb and disperse the heat radiating from the earth’s surface. This produces the so-called “greenhouse effect”. Without these naturally occurring heat trapping gases, average global temperatures would be about 30 °C colder.

Increasingly, the greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by human activity are amplifying the heat-trapping properties of the atmosphere, with the now-familiar apocalyptic symptoms: frequent extreme storms, widespread severe drought, wildfire of unprecedented scale, rapidly melting glaciation, and rising sea levels.

The cause and effect of greenhouse gas pollution has become so obvious that the climate crisis can now be summarized in stark terms: Greenhouse gas pollution is dangerously warming the atmosphere. The appropriate response now seems equally obvious: Stop greenhouse gas pollution. Clean it up.

silver bullet

Ways and means

Until recently, the international response to climate change has focused on stopping GHG pollution. Those efforts continue to move along three basic pathways: replacing machinery that burns fossil fuels with devices that run on electricity or zero carbon energy such as wind, solar and geothermal; discontinuing the use of certain industrial chemicals containing fluorine; and reforming land use practices. This has proven to be a complex international undertaking. System change and countless individual actions are required within these spheres of economic activity. Getting all the players in the affected sectors to cooperate in the context of a competitive, bottom-line-oriented world economy is time-consuming. We are likely decades away from a carbon-neutral world if stopping pollution remains the primary goal.

So zero carbon strategies are broadening to include the cleanup of an estimated 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Compared to eliminating a multitude of GHG sources worldwide, cleanup scenarios are, practically speaking, simple and straightforward: remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, permanently and safely store it, and use some of the CO2 or its derivatives as a valuable industrial material. The politics are simpler too. Removing pollution does not require international cooperation. It has zero disruptive effect on the economic status quo. It’s a wide-open field with no industrial incumbents needing to be replaced or shut down. A handful of technologies deployed globally by well-funded public or private organizations could do the job.

Carbon dioxide pollution accounts for about 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the only greenhouse gas for which there are proven methods of removal. These methods are categorized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “negative emissions”, or carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Distinct from removing CO2 from the flue gas of an industrial plant, CDR removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by direct air capture (DAC) technologies and by the enhancement of natural carbon sinks such as soils and surface geology. The captured CO2 can be stored in geological formations, sold to fizzy drink makers, or broken down into oxygen gas and solid carbon, a valuable industrial material.

Carbon dioxide removal is a pragmatic and perhaps overdue shift in climate change thinking and strategy. In an article published in Issues in Science and Technology, Dr. Klaus Lackner and Christophe Jospe re-frame climate change as a waste management problem. “Carbon dioxide emissions represent the metabolic by-product of industrial activities on which billions of people depend to survive and thrive. Now we must learn to safely dispose of this by-product,” they write. While Lackner and Jospe stop short of calling CDR a panacea, they do identify its key role in eliminating greenhouse gas pollution.

Arizona State University’s Klaus Lackner discusses removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Direct air capture will not be a silver bullet that all by itself stops climate change, but it has many assets that can directly address some of the key obstacles to technical, political, and economic progress on climate change,” they write. The scalability and relative simplicity of DAC could ensure that “whatever goes into the atmosphere also comes out, no matter how difficult it is to reduce emissions from particular technologies or sectors, such as transportation. Direct air capture with carbon storage can also, if necessary, lower the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere much faster than natural processes would.”

Klaus Lackner
Klaus Lackner

Klaus Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University and a pioneer in developing DAC since the mid 1990s. His co-author, Christophe Jospe, is Chief Development Officer at Nori, a Seattle-based company that focuses on carbon storage and usage. Nori treats CO2 as a raw material and connects COsuppliers with CO2 buyers. Storing carbon dioxide will entail significant cost, so treating it as a raw material is crucial. In other words, valuable products, derived from captured CO2, could finance a good part of a global cleanup operation.

Diverse pathways, a single purpose

A number of forward-looking organizations, with financial support from government and private investors, are making carbon dioxide removal a reality using DAC and enhanced mineralization processes. They are using CO2 to make stronger concrete, or using it as a feed stock for ultra strong carbon materials. They are combining CO2 with hydrogen to make synthetic fuel, or sequestering the gas permanently underground.

mechanical trees
Mechanical trees

Silicon Kingdom Holdings, (SKH) based in Dublin, Ireland, is planning to build mechanical tree farms using the capture technology developed by Dr. Lackner. Thousands of times more efficient than natural trees, the devices use anion exchange membranes to remove CO2 from ambient air. A sodium carbonate solution and heat further separate and purify the gas. The CO2 is then pressurized and made available for sequestration or for use in a variety of industrial applications such as synthetic fuels and high strength materials. SKH was established by a group of business and science innovators, including Dr. Lackner, in association with Arizona State University.

Carbon Engineering is making sustainable near-zero-carbon aviation fuel.

Carbon Engineering, based in Squamish, Canada, has designed modular devices that blow ambient air over a capture solution. A closed loop series of chemical processes fixes CO2 and releases it in concentrated form. The firm plans to build full-scale DAC plants to capture a million tonnes of CO2 annually at about $US100 a tonne. The CO2 will be permanently stored underground or combined with hydrogen to make synthetic transportation fuel. Carbon Engineering recently received a $25 million repayable investment from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and has secured over CA$100 million from private investors including Murray Edwards and Bill Gates. The firm is partnering with 1PointFive in the US and Pale Blue Dot in the UK to finance and build commercial DAC plants.

Climeworks air capture units
Modular air capture units. Image source: Climeworks

Climeworks of Switzerland is operating a demonstration plant near Zurich that can remove 900 metric tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere yearly. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s technology, fans blow CO2 through modular units roughly the size of shipping containers. Filters in the units capture the gas, then release it for collection. A small demonstration plant in Troia, Italy, will collect 150 tonnes of CO2 per year. Similar to Carbon Engineering’s process, the CO2 is combined with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuel.

CarbFix core sample
A core sample from an injection site showing CO2 bearing carbonate minerals in basaltic host rock. Photo: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir.

Climeworks also permanently sequesters carbon dioxide underground. In 2019, the organization introduced a public removal and sequestration scheme in partnership with Reykjavik Energy of Iceland. Through its subsidiary CarbFix, Reykjavik Energy injects CO2 from a 303 MW geothermal power plant into subsurface basalt rock. The injected CO2 mineralizes into solid carbonate rock in less than two years. The Climeworks website invites individuals and organizations to pay a monthly subscription – in amounts up to €2,000 per month – to help fund the project. For example, €5 per month will sponsor the sequestration of 61 kilograms of CO2 yearly.

Globally, the storage capacity of basalt is immense. The rock composes about 10 percent of the earth’s continental surface area and underlies most of the planet’s ocean floor. The potential mineral uptake of basalt formations is estimated at between 100 and 250 trillion tons – in theory enough to absorb all the excess CO2 in the atmosphere a hundred times over.

CarbonCure uses CO2 to make a higher-strength concrete.

In Halifax, Canada, CarbonCure injects recycled CO2 into cement during the mixing process. The CO2 mineralizes into calcium carbonate and actually strengthens the concrete as it cures. The process permanently fixes CO2 at relatively low cost, and if scaled to the global concrete market, could sequester over 500 megatons of CO2 annually. CarbonCure presently obtains its CO2 from established suppliers such as fertilizer plants and other cement producers. It expects to use CO2 from DAC technologies as they become available. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, established by Bill Gates and a coalition of private investors including Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, have invested in the company.

Bio-oil by Charm Industrial
Bio-oil destined for sequestration. Source Charm Industrial

In San Francisco, USA, Charm Industrial has a patent pending for a process that produces bio-oil for storage deep underground. Fast pyrolysis converts the carbohydrate compounds in scrap wood, sawdust, and agricultural waste into a stable liquid similar to crude oil. In effect, the company is reversing crude oil extraction and returning carbon to its geological source.

Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta
Eric Matzner, co-founder of Project Vesta, explains how olivine are used to sequester carbon dioxide. Image sourec: San Francisco Chronicle

Also in San Francisco, Project Vesta, a non-profit venture, captures CO2 by accelerating the natural weathering of rock. Small grains of olivine, an abundant green volcanic mineral, are spread like sand on shallow beach environments. Wave action abrades the olivine, increasing its surface area. In the process, the mineral reacts to atmospheric CO2 and ocean water – the same silicate-to-carbonate chemical reaction as natural weathering. The olivine becomes limestone which collects on the seafloor. Research suggest that applying olivine on just 2 percent of the world’s shallow ocean shelves would remove one year’s worth of annual global CO2 emissions at low cost. A pilot project is underway on a Caribbean beach, but more testing is required to answer questions about safety and viability.

Stripe, the payment software company, has given financial support to Project Vesta, Charm Industrial, Climeworks and Carboncure. Instead of spending money on projects that curtail emissions through carbon offset programs, the company is distributing  US$ 1 million among these four ventures to help remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Turning CO2 into carbon nanofibres. Dr. Stuart Licht at the American Chemical Society

Meanwhile, C2CNT, comprised of a team of researchers and engineers led by Dr. Stuart Licht of George Washington University, is running a demonstration project at a coal-fired electricity generation plant near Edmonton, Canada. The project captures CO2 from flue gas to produce carbon nanotubes. Using electrolysis, the CO2 is split into oxygen and carbon fibres. The fibres can take different forms for different applications. One form, carbon nanotubes, are a hi-tech industrial material used to make aircraft bodies, tennis rackets and other strong lightweight products. The highest quality nanotubes produced by conventional methods can fetch up to $100,000 per kilogram. Another form of carbon, graphene, is suitable for safe, stable sequestration. The C2CNT project is one of 10 finalists in the Carbon Xprize competition awarded US$500,000 to demonstrate technologies that convert CO2 into valuable products. Capital Power, the owner of the generation plant and host of the demonstration project has invested in C2CNT with the aim of removing CO2 from their flue gas.  

A DAC version of the technology would be self-powered using solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. According to Licht’s calculations, full scale deployment in an area about 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels in as little as 10 years.

Technical innovation goes through several stages. Often, it will start in a university lab. It will then attract the interest of private investors. When things begin to take shape, governments will provide grants. There will be a demonstration phase followed by the technology’s entrance into mainstream markets. Once adopted by the marketplace, costs can go down with economies of scale and the development of production efficiencies. The development of DAC has taken that path. The C2CNT project started in a lab at George Washington University and is now working out of the Genesee generating station, near Edmonton, Canada. When Climeworks’ technology became commercially available in 2014, it captured carbon dioxide for about US$600 per tonne. It now expects to bring costs down closer to US$100 per tonne in two or three years. Carbon Engineering appears to have beaten them to the punch. In 2019 it announced that its fully demonstrated DAC technology was capable of capturing and purifying atmospheric carbon dioxide for under US$100 per tonne.

With CDR, investors like Bill Gates may realize that the near-term cost of cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution is the most pragmatic way to avoid the even costlier long-term effects of the pollution. Capital power, meanwhile, has invested in the C2CNT project in order to continue burning coal to generate electricity. It aims to stop CO2 emissions and pay for the cost of doing so by selling high-value carbon nanotubes derived from those emissions.

As we confront the deepening climate crisis, it helps to remember that we are facing a greenhouse gas pollution crisis, or perhaps less dramatically, a waste management challenge. As we meet that challenge by stopping the pollution at source and removing anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we can expect things to cool down.

COVID-19, a heretical perspective

Wartime Emergency Hospital, Kansas

A non-physical personality channeled by Jane Roberts in the late 1970s sheds light on viruses and epidemics

The COVID-19 virus is taxing medical systems and killing people with alarming speed worldwide, but the pandemic is as much a theoretical construct as it is a physical event. We don’t know for sure how widespread the virus is compared to other seasonal flu eruptions. Social distancing may slow the contagion, but we don’t know if the strategy will change the number of afflicted people in the long run. At any rate, and for better and for worse, our response has been to grasp the few measures we believe contain the disease: limiting human interaction and deploying vaccines as fast as possible.

The reaction to COVID-19 is based on partial understanding. We know what the virus looks like. We know what it can do to the cellular structure of the human body. We understand that it can spread through water droplets ejected from the nose and mouth. But we don’t know why, for example, some people seem resistant to it while others are not. Some people die from pneumonia triggered by the viral infection, some recover, some have only mild symptoms, and an unknown number may remain asymptomatic for the duration of the pandemic.

There is widespread belief that, because COVID-19 is a “novel” virus, our immune systems are not fully prepared to fend off its attack. While we frantically search for a vaccine, we, the self-proclaimed reigning species on the planet, feel oddly united in our sudden vulnerability.

From the outside looking in

There is information available that sheds some light on the situation, and it comes from a source foreign to scientific inquiry – from outside the framework of day-to-day awareness, in fact. This makes the material somewhat heretical. The material was channeled by the intuitive writer Jane Roberts who, over the course of a decade beginning in 1970, entered a trance state to dictate a number of books authored by an entity named “Seth”. A non-physical personality no longer focused in space-time, Seth lived many lives on earth, one of them self-described as a “politically minded, crooked old Pope” in 300 AD. What the long gone pope says about viruses is clear and direct:

“The viruses in the body have a social, cooperative existence. Their effects become deadly only under certain conditions. The viruses must be triggered into destructive activity, and this happens only at a certain point, when the individual involved is actively seeking either death or a crisis situation biologically.” [1]

Statements like these are challenging for those of us who seek comfort in prevailing beliefs about life, death and victimhood. They nevertheless have a certain quality that may ring true to the open-minded reader; we want to hear more. Obligingly, Seth goes on to list various characteristics of viruses that escape scientific scrutiny. For example, viruses:

  • are social,
  • react quickly and knowingly to stimuli,
  • are responsive to emotional states,
  • can revive after centuries of inactivity,
  • have extensive memory patterns, and
  • can multiply by the tens of thousands within seconds. [2]

We are told that legions of viruses dwell within each of us, and that those viruses have a symbiotic, responsive relationship to our bodies. Viruses are in fact an essential element of biology and play a key role in maintaining overall health. We are unaware of them until they manifest destructive behavior.

We also learn that when people are under great stress and highly alarmed, their bodies can eject harmful viruses into the environment as a means of defense, much as a skunk throws off spray from its scent glands. A sort of “biological aggression”, such responses will occur at times of deep social crisis such as wartime and rampant injustice. At a more immediate level, ejecting viruses is also a way of ridding the body of unwanted stress. [3]

Seth also had this to say about epidemics:

“To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.” [4]

These, of course, would be meta-mass statements, deeply psychological – “spiritual” even – and of a different order than the online petitions and street protests commonly used to provoke government action.

Through selfish neglect, humans have a way of allowing wretched conditions to take hold in the social order: extreme poverty and inequality, senseless warfare, indifferent and flagrant abuse of the natural world. The conditions are eventually “normalized”, but some part of the human psyche refuses to accept them, and sooner or later the psyche responds, erupting en masse into the social environment in a most direct and dramatic way. Society as a whole is shocked into recognition. Yet these are not straightforward events, where everyone in the path of destruction gets mowed down. Seth cites historical events to illustrate:

“Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed however: they were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery.” [5]

Moral, psychological and social triggers

The way Seth describes viral behavior and pandemic events suggests that we are not passive victims in the path of a microscopic predator. There are far more interactive, subjective and personal dynamics at play. Some may find this far-fetched or unbelievable. It is certainly “unscientific” because the source of the information cannot be verified and the statements cannot be proven.

Nevertheless, there are interesting correlations.

Who remembers having the flu as a child, staying at home in bed (away from the stress of school), and being cared for by their mother, who did not get sick? Why did she not get sick?

There is inconclusive evidence regarding the national origin of the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, but there is no disputing the fact that it erupted in military bases in various locations during the later stages of World War I. In 2000, one team of researchers found evidence of an acute respiratory illness at a base in Etaples, France, in the winter of 1915-16.

Noted virologist John Oxford, a member of the research team, observed that the Etaples base – one of the largest ever built and equipped with 22 hospitals – housed a minimum of 100,000 soldiers on any given day, with over a million men passing through over time. Oxford described the camp as the “perfect breeding-ground for influenza viruses, because so many young men of different nationalities were mixing under fairly strenuous circumstances.” [6] “Fairly strenuous circumstances” is surely an understatement.

Later, in a book review, Oxford alluded to the horrors of war. “I believe,” he wrote, “that from the gas-ridden, overcrowded trenches and nearby hospitals of already ruined Europe, filled with enough pigs, chickens and ducks to feed 2 million troops each day, arose a 10,000-nucleotide beast surrounded by a fragile lipid sphere. It seeded itself around the world while its biological clock ticked to ring at midnight on 11 November 1918, when it exploded worldwide.” [7] The used and abused troops were coming home and spreading some very bad news.

In contrast, one of the more plausible theories on the origin of COVID-19 suggests it emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, China. Wet markets offer fresh vegetables, fruits and meats, much like farm markets in other parts of the world. But in China, live and sometimes exotic animals (alligators, peacocks, snakes, bears, for example) are brought to these markets, kept in cages, and slaughtered just prior to being sold. According to Christopher St. Cavish of the Los Angeles Times, the buyers subscribe to a traditional Chinese belief that eating certain wild animal parts confers wealth and status while enhancing health and vitality. However, sale of these meats is poorly regulated, so sanitary conditions can be correspondingly slack. [8]

The animals face brutal conditions, no better no worse perhaps than the general conditions we routinely impose on the natural world, and sometimes on one another. Because the caged animals at the Wuhan wet market doubtlessly felt unbearably stressed, it is not unreasonable to conclude that they retaliated the only way they could: with a biological weapon. Time will tell just how effective that weapon will be.

Will we be shocked into recognition? That might be the best outcome.

Photo: Soldiers ill with Spanish flu at a hospital ward at Camp Funston, near Fort Riley, Kansas.

References

[1] The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p 184, Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

[2] Ibid, p 185

[3] Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, p 264, by Jane Roberts, 1986, Amber-Allen Publishing

[4] The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, p 19, Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing

[5] Ibid, p 21

[6] Flu epidemic traced to Great War transit camp, Steve Connor, The Independent, January 8, 2000  https://bit.ly/39CuVdF

[7] Nature’s biological weapon  The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50 million people — and it could happen again. Nature, Vol 429, May 27, 2004, www.nature.com/articles/429345a.pdf

[8] No, China’s fresh food markets did not cause coronavirus
www.latimes.com/food/story/2020-03-11/coronavirus-china-wet-markets