Is Covid the outlier?. How disease has always been a simple… | by Jordan Fearn | February 2022
It is believed that the agricultural revolution occurred between eleven and twelve thousand years ago and brought about a whole series of changes. One of them being the exchange of goods and the possibility for certain members of humanity to no longer have to devote all their time to collecting food. This allowed the rise of a class of merchants but also the development of places where people sold their wares.
Medina, for example, currently the second holiest city in Islam, before the enlightenment of the Prophet Muhammad was a trading post (as well as an important city in the region’s pagan religion before then). This meant that people would congregate in Medina, allowing germs and disease to spread between tribes. Whereas before the diseases died with the tribe, the constant flow of new, previously uninfected people moving into urban areas provided perfect hosts to keep the disease alive.
The development of farms has also aggravated this problem. Nomads had always carried animals with them, but these were generally similar to hunter-gatherer tribes, where the number of people they came into contact with was far less than someone living in an urban area. But the creation of farms meant that people spent far more time with animals, allowing zoonotic viruses (transmissible between animals and humans) to spread and then be transferred to a wider population. Pre-modern cities were typically dirty and filled with animal droppings, creating the perfect vectors for disease transfer.
For these reasons, it is easy to see why more people died from the pre-germline theory of disease than from any other cause. In fact, Professor Kyle Harper, author of Plagues Upon the Earth, posits that death was so rampant that cities grew only because of constant immigration, not birth. Death from disease was considered the norm – a fact which, given how plagued society has become with fear of disease, seems almost unthinkable. Even in the grip of Covid-19, we have not reached the same scale that our ancestors endured.
The constant spread of disease by a more interconnected world acted as a form of natural selection, since the spread of disease was so constant that those whose immune systems did not evolve to fight it would die, those who did would survive and pass on their immunity to their offspring. When things like the Black Death, which is said to have killed up to half of Europe’s population, happened, we need them to reek of destruction.
If a Black Death could sweep the world once in a generation, survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full – Bertrand Russell
Transmitted by fleas that attach themselves to rats, squirrels and other rodents, the Black Death still lives vividly in the minds of modern Europeans today. There are many theories as to what stopped the plague, ranging from the implementation of lockdowns to the argument that it never actually disappeared and can still be found today. Either way, it has been convincingly proven that people have acquired immunity and possibly even passed it on to their descendants. With their bodies’ ability to fight disease and many deaths, Europe and the rest of the world have overcome the Black Death, but we’ve seen what happens when that just isn’t possible.