With the recent measles outbreak in Los Angeles, California, it is important to consider the effects of climate change on the spreading and reemergence of previously extinct pathogens. Margaret Valenti warns of the consequences the anti-vax movement and man-made climate change denial may have as these two controversial issues collide to cause very serious health concerns.
Recently, The University of California, Los Angeles and California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) issued quarantines of students and faculty who could not provide evidence of vaccination against measles. A Scientology cruise ship was also quarantined when a female crew member contracted measles. As the anti-vax and man-made climate change denial movements continue to spread their messages, there is a concern about the spread of pathogens that for a long time were nearly non-existent in the United States.
With the rapid pace of melting glaciers and permafrost around the world, pathogens can emerge from the ice that modern science is not yet equipped to handle. Most of these pathogens are ancient pathogens that beforehand scientists considered extinct. Studies were done in 2005, 2007, and 2011 all acknowledge the potential for possible catastrophes caused by the melting of ice that may expose ancient pathogens. For example, a twelve year old boy died in 2016 when anthrax reemerged in reindeer herds of northern Siberia. His death was believed to be caused by the frozen soil that melted in the high temperatures of the summer and revealed a reindeer corpse that died approximately seventy-five years before.
Both anti-vaxxers and man-made climate change deniers in the United States play serious roles in determining how the United States will deal with this problem as it continues to grow. If a pathogen more threatening than measles is exposed and reaches major cities in the United States, there needs to be a willingness amongst the population to be vaccinated should the need arise. There are also no guarantees that current or future governments will deal with the problem of climate change properly to perhaps mitigate the ability of these pathogens to spread.
Both the anti-vax movement and the denial of man-made climate change by a portion of the population are becoming more prominent as individuals choose to ignore the majority of scientific evidence surrounding these issues. However, there is a difference between misinformation and outright denial. The anti-vax movement seems to rely more on misinformation than denial.
The World Health Organization made ‘vaccine hesitancy’ one of its top ten threats to tackle in 2019. However, within the anti-vax movement, there is not a majority consensus on no vaccines. Eula Biss’ novel, On Immunity: An Inoculation, argues that there is no such thing as an anti-vaxxer. Skepticism comes in varying degrees. Some people believe that only certain vaccines are harmful and not others. Others only want their children to get a limited number of vaccines per visit due to some harmful chemicals that exist in some vaccines.
The belief that the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine causes autism came from a study headed by Andrew Wakefield that has since been retracted. The study came out in 1998 and sparked a nationwide fear about vaccines that is still prevalent, despite the study’s current status. Theothermicile, a mercury compound, is a preservative in some vaccines that Wakefield believed to be the cause of autism. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this compound, in small doses, is harmful in vaccines.
There is also a deep mistrust of the government that lies within the anti-vax movement because of the fear of government interference in people’s lives. People do not want to receive vaccines because they do not want the government in control of their health.
With the continuation of rising temperatures across the globe, the concern about which pathogens might surface from the past does not seem to concern many people. While some of these strains of pathogens could be antibiotic resistant, it may still become necessary to prevent their spread should the need arise and a vaccine is found to be effective.
The continued denial of man-made climate change and climate science in the executive branch of the United States only aggravates the problem of ancient pathogens emerging from the ice. What was a priority during the Obama administration is no longer regarded as a legitimate perspective in the eyes of the Trump administration.
The globe seems to be on track for an increase in temperature, which will be catastrophic. The ice and permafrost on Earth will melt and inevitably disappear, causing global catastrophes and death. Not only will this be destructive to all species on Earth, but what exactly will emerge from all of the ice remains a question that is yet to be solved entirely.
As the ice and permafrost on Earth continue to melt and the past is unearthed from within it, the concern about which ancient pathogens emerge deserves basic recognition from all of those associated with the anti-vax movement and man-made climate change deniers alike. The facts from this two-degree increase should be scary enough, but a larger fear may exist as the threat of another plague that could kill up to sixty percent of the population becomes a reality.