Covid-19 & the Future – Sean McDonagh

Apr 15, 2020 | 6 comments

World spread of Covid-19 by 15th April, 2020 – the darker the blue, the more humans affected.

  • By Easter 2020, In just four months, a very contagious and totally new virus had spread from Wuhan, China, in December 2019 –  right around the world.
  • It had infected more than 1,500,000 and killed 100,000, most of whom died alone without the comfort of family or friends.
  • The last time something similar had happened was during the “Spanish flu” which ravaged the world immediately after World War 1 (1914-1919)
  • By mid-April 2020, one quarter of the world’s population was on lockdown. The advice from the medical world was to keep a physical distance of two metres from each other, use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, bin it, wash hands thoroughly.

History teaches us that pandemics can change things dramatically. Although the death toll was massively higher during the plague of Justinian (541–542 AD) which undermined the Byzantine Empire, or the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century which wiped out one third of the population of Europe, during the next five years Covid-19 is also set to change history – and maybe even more dramatically.


Given the fact that many people are in lockdown and out of work, people are assessing what the economic impact of the pandemic will be. Already, we have seen that global economic projections made in January 2020 have collapsed. In January 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a global growth rate of 3.3% in 2020.

In a speech before the spring meeting of the IMF and World Bank, which is being held online from 17 to 19 April 2020, the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, stated that “global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020.” She continued saying that “we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.”

query mark for pullquoteHow do the poorest do ‘social distancing’?

Since January 2020, the media has followed the spread of Covid-19, which began in China, then moved on to Korea, Italy, Spain, Britain, Ireland and the United States. In all of these countries, it is possible to ‘social distance’ and wash one’s hands, but it is not possible for the T’boli people of Southeast Mindanao in the Philippines whose lives I shared as a Columban missionary during the 1980s.

How can your social distance or wash your hands when ten people share a two-room house without running water?

This is not just a problem for the T’boli, but for one quarter of the world’s population who do not have access to running water and adequate sanitation. It is feared that, given how contagious Covid-19 is, it will wreak havoc in India, Latin America and Africa and cause millions of deaths because their public health systems are rudimentary.


The economic consequences for the poor are also being overlooked. On 9 April 2020, Oxfam International in a report called Dignity not Destitution warned world leaders that, unless richer countries commit to a rescue package of $2.5 trillion dollars, about a half a billion people might be pushed back into poverty by Covid-19. Many rich countries are currently engaged in providing multi-billion dollar or euro stimuli for those who have lost their jobs. Poor countries cannot do this, so the money from the $2.5 trillion dollar rescue package would provide cash for those who have lost their incomes and a bail-out for small, vulnerable businesses.

query mark for pullquoteWill the First World cancel the debts of Destitute Nations?
The money could also be used to cancel the staggering $1trillion debt which poor and developing countries are due to pay in 2020 to richer countries and institutions.

Finally, $1 trillion would provide a new international reserve for economically poor countries. But will rich countries, who are borrowing phenomenal amounts of money for their own domestic needs, even think of responding to the plight of poor people globally?


In discussing Covid-19 in an interview with Austen Ivereigh in The Tablet, Pope Francis called to mind the Spanish phrase “God always forgives, we forgive but, sometimes, nature never forgives.” [3] However, in his “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World), address given after Easter Sunday Mass on April 12th 2020, he focused exclusively on the human element of the crisis. He acknowledged that “the world already (is) faced with epochal challenges and (is ) now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our human family.” He continued that “this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties.”[4]


All this is true, as people are shocked by the pain and death of loved ones and the economic chaos that Covid-19 is causing. However, many commentators on Covid-19 fail to make any connection between it and the destruction of the natural world which, in little more than two decades, has given us Covid-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, Zika, and H1N1.

query mark for pullquoteWhy no preaching on the impact of climate change and loss of bio-diversity on world health, world poverty?

Similarly, on Good Friday, I listened to Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Humanist leaders speaking on RTE, Radio 1 about the celebration of Easter, the Passover and Ramadan in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic when worshippers will not able to gather physically in churches, mosques and synagogues.

No one mentioned the fact that large-scale deforestation, habitat degradation, intensive agriculture, trade in species and climate change all contribute to biodiversity loss and, in the process, facilitate the rise of new pandemics.

For a long time, we have known that viruses and pathogens have leaped from other species to the human population. However, the destruction of biodiversity means that these events are happening much more frequently now than in the past. Worse still, pandemics will continue to happen at an even greater rate in the future unless we change some of the practices listed above. Thankfully, we are much better placed to survive pandemics than previous generations were as we expect our scientists to come up with cures or vaccines to protect us. But, given that humans are colonising every ecosystem, we can expect more frequent and more deadly pandemics in the future.

At the moment, the human population stands at 7.8 billion but it is expected to increase to 10 billion within the next 30 years.

Many people believe that the corona virus first jumped across to humans who were working at a ‘wet’ market in Wuhan in China in December 2019.[5] In these markets, animals who would seldom encounter one another in the wild such as civets, live wolf pups and pangolins, are crammed together into small cages, often in filthy conditions. This is an ideal environment in which to incubate diseases that will spill over into the human population.

query mark for pullquoteWho is connecting their own future health with the need for respect for the animal world – and calling for an end to unhealthy conditions on factory farms and to ‘wet-markets’ altogether?
That is why Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary on the UN Convention on Biodiversity, said that countries should ban ‘wet’ markets.[6] At the moment, China has introduced a temporary ban on ‘wet’ markets. The secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, Jinfeng Zhou, has called for a permanent ban on all wildlife markets.

The ethicist, Viveca Morris, who is the executive director of the Law, Ethics and Animal Program Yale Law School, writing in the Los Angeles Times points out that the Chinese are not the only ones involved in trading wild animals. “Every year, Americans pay to capture, box-up, and import hundreds of millions of live animals for agriculture, the pet and aquarium industries, and other uses.”[7]

Morris asks us to look at what we are doing in our modern, industrial farms. In many places, we crowd cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals into crammed living spaces. These situations can become a breeding ground for viral and bacterial pathogens, so to ensure this does not happen, we lace their feed with antibiotics. This, of course, creates the perfect conditions for antibiotic-resistant pathogens to develop and thrive.

query mark for pullquoteWho will be prepared for the next pandemic – if we ignore any of the major lessons of this one?

We humans pay the price in the form of drug-resistant UTIs and MRSA infections. This kind of farming also increases the risk of deadly viral epidemics such as the 2009 H1N1 outbreak that sickened 59 million people.[8] The ways humans destroy much of the natural world and engage in factory farming is based on the fallacy that what we do to the natural world will not have a negative impact on human health and well-being. Covid-19 tells us that this untrue. Either we need to drastically change our ways of relating to the natural world, or get ready for the next pandemic. The choice is in our hands.

Footnotes – some of which are clickable within the article.

2. “Covid-19 could push half a billion people into poverty,” RTE, 9th Apr 2020
3. Austen Ivereigh, “Pope Francis says pandemic can be a ‘place of conversion’, The Tablet, April 8th 2020.
4. Pope Francis Says the Coronavirus is ‘Testing Our Whole Human Family’, The New York Times, April 12th 2020.
5. Lily Kuo, “Weeks that changed the world: inside Wuhan when a pandemic was born,” The Irish Times, April 11th 2020, page 9.
6.Patrick Greenfield, “Ban wildlife markets to avert pandemics, say UN biodiversity chief,” The Guardian, April 6th 2020.,
7. VIVECA MORRIS, “Op-Ed: COVID-19 shows that what we’re doing to animals is killing us, too,” Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2020.
8. Ibid.


  1. Martin Murray

    Surely the link between abusing animals and the world’s health is now clear.

    “Ban the use of antibiotics in farming. Treat meat, cow milk and cheese as we treat tobacco and alcohol and hit them with punitive taxes. Make the illegal trade in wild animals as great a crime as the illegal trade in weapons.”
    (Nick Cohen The Guardian 11th April 2010)

    Such a suggestion will be met with fury, but this is just one example of the scale of change we will have to embrace if the human species is to have a future.

  2. Marie O'halloran 1

    An excellent analysis from Fr Sean…Deep reflection and action needed on Climate change and all we are doing to contribute to the loss of bio diversity……..ban marketing of wild animals…We cannot ignore the obvious lessons from this pandemic. I suggest this information is sent to our policy makers.

  3. Noel McCann

    Fr. Sean’s article certainly presents us with a stark choice – either change the way we behave and treat our planet or face the consequences. A failure to learn the lessons from the Covid-19 experience [and SARS, MERS, etc] might well mean that we will have to live in the future with other pandemics and the associated outcomes including significant death rates, the hospitalisation of huge numbers of the population, not to mention social distancing, school closures, working from home, etc.

    But history shows us that once we emerge from a crisis and appear to have overcome the immediate challenge we tend to drift, however slowly, back to our old ways. We do learn from our experiences but the reality is the lessons are very often forgotten once the ‘dust settles’ after a crisis. If we really learned from history why do nations [decade after decade] still try to resolve disputes using force very often leading to widespread destruction of people, property and the environment? Why are food shortages still a daily reality for so many people in less developed regions despite the experience of dealing with famines in the past? Despite the outrage and grief in the aftermath of multiple-killings why have the gun laws in the USA, for example, not been changed?

    Do we really learn from our experiences? Why will it be any different on this occasion? Once we produce the Covid-19 vaccine will we not just ‘clap ourselves on the back’ for once again proving [after all] that we are in control of the planet and our destiny – and we will forge ahead until nature ‘bites back’ again!!

  4. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Not sure if anyone has noticed this but it appears as though this is a synthetics diagram on this map. I’m reading it. Synthetics imports it reads. Then a western diet it identifies too. S-CVD-19 is terrible but my parents in their early 80s do not want to be held in a prison either (they are like mimetic desire personified – hard to keep ahead of). They were read the riot act and I’ll give the same advice to you all. If you are staying home, do not spend much time either connected online or in front of a television (unless you are on a letter-writing spree).

    Plastics ingestion is FRIGHTENING. Hunger – we’re talking about Covid in mainstream media full time perhaps because it affects all of us but it is still a crisis worthy of our attention and creative thinking. The cold hard statistics are difficult to work through but I believe if we process through this as groups, in a healing circle together and make steps forward, we can enter into humanity’s phase shift properly – equal footing. Equal footing is key – men and women as equals in a more indigenous application of our doctrine on the ecological footing provided in 2015. This is not about prayer right now – this is about a response that ensures we don’t “clap ourselves on the back”. If you are clapping yourself – face palm your forehead and realize we had this inner strength all along. Call your front line responders and thank them and apologize.

    The total count on the planet up to April 20 is roughly 164,000 people. That’s approximately one week’s worth of premature death associated with hunger on the planet – 25K a day. Do I have your attention? This is a phase shift. This is where your rubber (doctrine) meets the road (application).

    Let’s get up to speed. I’ll keep it brief but I will start off by saying this can be immediately activated in all Catholics everywhere. It is a simple shift in consciousness and one simple demand: Vatican and Crown – it goes back to indigenous groups everywhere and we take that divested trillions and we start from the bottom and go to the top in all countries, the worst first. It is both a financial recovery plan for humanity, once it starts and an ecological recovery for the planet once it finishes. Ingestions of synthetics will have impacts and luckily, this permaculture plan is wholly supported by Catholics everywhere. Newcastle University and the WWF released a report this past June. Children are ingesting near 1000 pieces of microplastics each week and exports of these synthetics are on a deeply engrained growth curve (3.5%-4% each year now to 2035). When I introduced myself to Sean’s articles on the ACP site in 2012, it was for that reason – synthetics ingestion and I was openly hunting influencers. People here ask me “Why Ireland?” (Rocco Galati – one of Canada’s foremost constitutional lawyers) – I tell them I was looking for a guy like me in his 70s and a found him (reformer looking through an eco-lens).

    This is an assembly of key statistics in and around the impacts of pollutants on ecology. China is submitting 4600 deaths to CVD in the two-month shutdown they experienced at the last count I made compared to the near 80,000 people spared for pollution-related premature deaths in the same country – don’t expect a media frenzy; all ages, no real target demographic. This shift has to happen right now. Why? Two statistics – each year governments subsidize the fossil fuel industry $5.2tn / each year, the WHO estimates that governments spend $5.2tn/year on health costs related to pollution. Shift.

    It doesn’t take long to explain. The Vatican confirmed in 2015 that circular (donut) economics could be all the rage – it’s economics with an ecological footprint (wow!). The good news is with today’s technology, you end up becoming so resource-rich and self-sufficient, money becomes obsolete, which is how circular systems should work. That’s a more indigenous plan but let’s not misuse that label. In my local area I live 15 minutes from an indigenous community that has been here in Cape Breton for 13,000 years and they suffer 73% child poverty – why, mainly because they have a hard time seeing their futures before them. How many of those approximate 13,000 years did they suffer that level of child poverty? Don’t answer that. Global pandemics make for educational media. What we choose to report in the media is an issue. This system doesn’t work on a fossil fuel-based planet.

    Now the permaculture addition to the equation is a plastic replacement – bio-architect Neri Oxman at MIT is amazing. People like Envienta Foundation’s Gabor Kiss – truly innovative people with integration problems. Nature bites – we’re not expected to return that bite to her – we turn the cheek and learn from our mistakes. We need to focus on the protection of the young immediately on this synthetics front. 1.2 billion people right now can show how the advances of a religion, can both inflict (forgiven) and heal (pending) but only if that unity is found at the right time – now is the time for this phase shift. The bad news is that the highest number of atheists I’ve been able to organize at one time is 12 and only because they didn’t understand the concept of religion but were expressing traits that showed they had a deep connectivity to humanitarian aid and education – clergy in their own right. What happens when 1.2 billion people come together and address the laundry list?

    It would take a request from a group of people to kick it off and a simple press release. Vatican and Crown, please let this triangle down. We can get this balanced to where we need. Do not force us to beg – do not request that we plead. That world is over and a new one is about to begin. Fear not. This is now a healing circle and all is forgiven.

    Years ago, I mentionned on the ACP site that CBD, now produced in Canada, should make for a nice export to Ireland – why? It mimics interferon (produced by Cuba in the 80s as a treatment for novel coronaviruses) and is a natural, non-psychoactive ingredient that aging populations will appreciate for its anti-viral properties, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-stabilizing effects.

    We are allowed to grow it in Canada now – 4 plants per household. It’s great treatment and preventative medicine. Dietary hemp seed produced from another non-psychoactive plant has like medicinal components, less concentrated but great for all ages as preventative (such a scary word in healthcare). I’m not here to sell anything – indigenous cultures used these components in many of their creations until we burned this plant. At one point, there were 4 US states where it was illegal for them to stop the production of industrial hemp because it was so important to that great nation (greater with hemp).

    I have to run – an armed gunman dressed up as a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman went on a killing spree, stopping his tirade at a place where I used to live near the central region of my province of Nova Scotia. The community here is shaken and our news reports have forced another level of psychological warfare on our residents. I knew when Nova Scotia appeared in October of 2019 and legislated the Sustainable Development Goals Act of Nova Scotia (Royal Assent October 30) things were going to get interesting in Canada and in Nova Scotia specifically. We wrote the Vatican circular/regenerative economics into law. During that time, I became a very well known environmental support activist with Extinction Rebellion. I was very proud of Nova Scotia but knew the response to this, in the attachment of nefarious groups connected to government circles (VP level government/financial contractor in Quebec – I know this inside stuff), would end up creating a pattern of violence at some point.

    The problem I have with all this is poverty. We forgot about the malnourished there for a moment and went full media. I’m a generalist assembler, not a specialist but this is far from how we transition people into a soft landing. This is a rather large thud these days. Get on the horn and reach out to Sean McDonagh now. The largest response to this important transition was found in the Church, where the power of a wonderful (misguided) assembly can make the biggest difference. You all knew to keep together for a reason. Here is the reason. Overtake the Crown and the Vatican at once. Turn off your televisions and pick up your phones and pray aloud to your local leadership. Make reference to Nova Scotia’s Bill 213 and please pray for my community.

    Your humble servant.

    • Lloyd Allan MacPherson

      Here is a video presentation of the groups I’ve been working with the last two years – The Envienta Foundation / World Summit / Hack Humanity:


      Please let’s not go back to normal – sharpen those pencils – pick up a phone. Let’s not lose perspective – now is the time to gain more than ever.

  5. Pascal O'Dea

    Fair points by Fr Sean on the price of of our current world food production model. Amid the current crisis, the question is posed regularly as to what “changes for the better ” might come from the crisis and several panelists on the softer colour pieces reflect that the pace of life so frantic up to this point might change – with more working from home , less commuting long distances with more reflection and pacing life to a less demanding rhythm. Sean’s piece quoting the dictum that nature dosn’t forgive may be of fundamental relevance and calls by international non-governmental organisations for meaningful change, ie protecting vulnerable populations in the Southern Hemisphere and protecting biodeversity may gain acceptance as a right of societies both rich and poor, a rare concordance of views so what’s good for my improvished neighbour could be good for all .


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