# Global Warming and Cooling After CO2 Shutoff at +1.5°C

I have done further analytical modeling of global warming, using the same general method described earlier (https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/global-warming-model.pdf).

The question addressed now is: what is the trend of temperature change after an abrupt shutoff of all CO2 emissions just as the net temperature rise (relative to year 1910) reaches +1.5°C, given the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere?

For this problem, it is assumed that when the temperature rise (relative to 1910) reaches ~+1.5°C, that:

– all greenhouse gas emissions cease;

– pollution grit (which scatters light) falls out of the atmosphere “instantly” (a few weeks);

– CO2 (greenhouse gas) concentration decays exponentially after emissions shutoff;

– for CO2 lifetimes [e^-1] in years: 20, 50, 100, 238.436, 500, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000;

– temperature sensitivities of cloud cover, ice cover and albedo are as in the previous model;

– all other fixed physical parameters are as in the previous model,
(https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/06/13/living-with-global-warming/).

In general, for the 8 cases calculated, the temperature increases at a diminishing rate after the emissions shutoff, reaches a peak, then trends downward.

The longer the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the later and higher is the temperature peak, and the longer it takes to cool back down to the baseline temperature of 1910, which is 1.5°C below the starting temperature for this problem.

The 4 figures below show the calculated results.

Figure 1: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 20, 50, 100, 238.436 years.

Figure 2: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 20, 50, 100, 238.436, 500, 1,000 years.

Figure 3: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 238.436, 500, 1,000, 10,000 years.

Figure 4: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years.

It is evident from the figures that if the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater than 500 years, that a temperature overshoot above +2.0°C (relative to 1910) will occur before cooling begins.

If the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater than about 250 years, it will take over a century for the eventual cooling to reduce average global temperature to its baseline temperature (which is for 1910 in this model).

If the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater than 10,000 years, the temperature overshoot will take global warming past +4.0°C (above our 1910 datum) for hundreds to thousands of years, and cooling back down to the temperature at our datum would take millennia.

The clearing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is a slow process. The absorption of CO2 by the oceans, and the subsequent dissolution of seafloor sediments (acidifying the oceans) occur over decades to centuries. The uptake of carbon dioxide by weathering reactions in carbonate and silicate soils and rocks occurs over millennia to many tens of millennia.

It took about 200,000 years to clear away the CO2 that caused the +8°C to +12°C global warming spike that occurred 55.5 million years ago, which is known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

Beyond its intrinsic scientific interest, this study confirms what has long been known as the needed remedy: anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases must permanently cease as soon as possible in order to limit the ultimate extent and duration of unhealthy global warming.

My notes on the mathematical solution of this problem are available through the following link

Global Warming, CO2 Shutoff

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Climate System Response Time

The parameter “beta” is a reaction rate, or frequency, or inverse response time of the biosphere and its climate system. By my calculation, that rate is 1.329×10^-10 seconds^-1, or 0.004194 years^-1, or a response time of 238.436 years. Of course I am not saying the precision of this estimate is as suggested by all the decimal places shown, it’s just that these are the numbers that come out of my calculations, and these numbers are kept to remind me of what choices I made to eventually arrive at this result.

The parameter beta is the product:

beta = (S•a1)/C = [S•(a-cloud – a-ice)]/C,

where:

S = the insolation on the entire disc area of the Earth (1.7751×10^17 Watts),

a-cloud = the temperature sensitivity of the albedo because of the extent of cloud cover (1/°C),
for a positive quantity of: increase of albedo for a given temperature rise (5.715×10^-3 1/°C),

a-ice = the temperature sensitivity of the albedo because of the extent of ice cover (1/°C),
for a negative quantity of: decrease of albedo for a given temperature rise (1.429×10^-3 1/°C),

C = the heat capacity of the biosphere (5.725×10^24 Joules/°C).

A better determination of a-cloud and a-ice would improve the estimate of beta. I chose these quantities to be in the ratio of 4:1, as is the ratio between the cloud reflection portion of the albedo (24%) to the Earth surface portion of the albedo (6%) for the total pristine (pollution free, pre-global warming) albedo (30%).

So, beta incorporates physical parameters that characterize: solar energy, atmospheric and Earth surface reflectivity of light, and the thermodynamics of the mass of the biosphere.

Events and inputs to that Earth climate system are recognized and responded to on a timescale of 1/beta. Events and inputs with timescales less than 1/beta are blips whose impact will become evident much later, if they are of sufficient magnitude and force. Events and inputs of timescales longer than 1/beta are “current events” to the biosphere’s thermodynamic “consciousness,” and act on the climate system as it reciprocally acts on them over the course of the input activity.

Turning a large ship around takes advanced planning and much space because it’s large inertia tends to keep it on its original heading despite new changes to the angle of its rudder. Even more-so, changes in the direction of Earth’s climate, which may be sought with new anthropogenic rudder angel changes — like drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions — will require fairly deep time because of the immense thermodynamic inertia of that planetary system.

This means that the climate system today is responding to the “short time” impulses it was given over the previous two centuries or more; and that both the more enlightened and most stupid impulses that we give it today could take several human lifetimes to realize their full response. We are dealing with Immensity here, and our best approach would be one of respect and commitment.

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# Global Warming After 1.5°C Without Emissions

If greenhouse gas emissions stop just as the temperature rise (relative to 1910) reaches 1.5°C, what is the projected trend of temperature rise (or fall) after that point in time (year)?

[This scenario presumes an infinite lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere. So it is the extreme of pessimism. The effect of finite lifetimes of CO2 in the atmosphere is shown in later work, at https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/06/20/global-warming-and-cooling-after-co2-shutoff-at-1-5c/]

If greenhouse gas emissions ceased entirely in the year 2047 (in 27 years), just as the relative temperature was nearly 1.5°C above that of 1910, then the subsequent trend of relative temperature would still be a rise but at a decreasing rate over time, and with an asymptote of 6.2877°C, which would essentially be achieved by the year 3160. Projections here are that for

year 2120 (in 100 years):
with same emissions rate after 2047, temperature rise = 3.2°C,
without any emissions after 2047, temperature rise = 2.75°C,

year 2185 (in 165 years):
with same emissions rate after 2047, temperature rise = 5°C,
without any emissions after 2047, temperature rise = 3.6°C.

The “no emissions” asymptotic temperature rise of ~6.29°C (by year 3160) would mean the average global temperature would be comparable to that of 55.5 million years ago at the very beginning of the upswing in temperature during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). The PETM began at a temperature about +4°C above that of our 1910 datum, and shot up to somewhere in the vicinity of +8°C to +12°C above it, and even possibly +16°C above it. It then took 200,000 years for the “excess” atmospheric CO2 to be cleared away by rock weathering, and the average global temperature to return to +4°C above our datum. This all occurred during the early Eocene geological epoch (which occurred between 56 to 33.9 million years ago).

In the post 2047 “no emissions” model used here, the albedo (the light reflectivity of the Earth) would still be higher than today because of increased reflective cloud cover, because of higher temperature.

Though the fallout of light-reflecting pollution grit would occur quickly in and after 2047, which is an albedo-reducing (warming) effect, it is not considered significant in relation to the reflective effect of the temperature-enhanced cloud cover (a cooling effect). The Earth’s albedo is dominated by cloud cover.

The temperature-enhanced reduction of ice cover (an albedo-reducing and thus warming effect) is always insignificant in comparison to the effect of cloud cover.

The infrared (heat) absorptivity (parameter F in the model) remains unchanged after 2047 because no new greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere after that year (hypothetically), and because carbon dioxide (CO2) remains present in the atmosphere for a very long time (once the oceans are saturated with it), on the order of 150,000 years or more.

As noted previously (in “Living With Global Warming”), because of the immense thermal inertia of the biosphere and its climate system, the effect of an abrupt cessation of greenhouse gas emissions would come on slowly over the course of hundreds of years [an e-folding time of 240 years].

As will be evident from Figure 3, below, if we cared to limit temperature rise as much as possible for the sake of future generations, we could never cease emitting greenhouse gases too soon.

On the basis of the modeling described here, it seems impossible to ever limit the ultimate rise of temperature to below +2°C relative to 1910.

If we ceased all greenhouse gas emissions this minute in the year 2020, we might be able to keep the average global temperature from ever rising above +5.8°C, relative to 1910, in the distant future.

It will be interesting to see what the state-of-the-art supercomputer numerical models project as possible future “no emissions” temperature rises, as those models are further refined from today.

Technical Details

The technical details of how I reached these conclusions now follow. This discussion is a brisk and direct continuation of

Living With Global Warming
13 June 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/06/13/living-with-global-warming/

For a description of the parameters used in my model, and their numerical values, see

A Simple Model of Global Warming
26 May 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/global-warming-model.pdf

The previous model of temperature rise relative to 1910 is called “example #5” because it was the 5th numerical example devised from the general solution of the relative temperature rate-of-change equation. For that model, at relative time =137 years (for year 2047, which is 137 years after 1910):

T = 1.4867°C, temperature rise relative to 1910,

A = 0.5226, albedo,

F = 0.5931, infrared (heat) absorptivity.

If greenhouse gas emissions cease entirely in year 2047 (at 137 years of relative time), then:

ap = 0, (grit pollution enhancement of albedo over time ceases),

fp = 0, (increasing greenhouse gas pollution enhancement of heat absorptivity over time ceases),

and the temperature change trend continues after t = 137years with:

T(at t=137) = 1.4867°C, (the “initial” relative temperature at t=137),

A = 0.5226 + 0.004286T, (albedo after t=137 is only dependent on relative temperature: clouds),

F = 0.5931, (heat absorptivity is unchanged after t=137, greenhouse gases persist, but none added),

alpha = 0.019919 °C/year, (new value),

beta = 0.004194 year^-1, (unchanged),

gamma = 0, (since strictly temporal increases/effects of pollution have ceased).

The relative temperature from t=137 on is now given by:

T(t≥137) = 1.4876°C + (4.801°C)[ 1 – exp(-0.004194[t-137]) ].

Figure 3: Relative Temperature Change after 2047 (1.5°C) w/o Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Note the following points on the “no emissions” relative temperature curve:

for t=210 (year 2120), T=2.75°C instead of 3.2°C,

for t=275 (year 2185), T=3.6°C instead of 5°C,

for t=1250 (year 3160), T=~6.28°C

The “no emissions” relative temperature curve after 1.5°C has an asymptote of 6.2877°C.

Note

For descriptions of the PETM, see:

Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene%E2%80%93Eocene_Thermal_Maximum

Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
15 July 2019
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/07/15/ye-cannot-swerve-me-moby-dick-and-climate-change/

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# Living With Global Warming

I modeled mathematically the thermal imbalance of our biosphere, which we call global warming, so as to gain my own quantitative understanding of the interplay of the two major effects that give rise to this phenomenon. This is a “toy model,” an abstraction of a very complicated planetary phenomenon that teams of scientists using supercomputers have been laboring for decades to enumerate in its many details, and to predict its likely course into the future.

The result of my model is a formula for the history of the rise of average global surface temperature. The parameters of the model are ratios of various physical quantities that affect the global heat balance. Many of those physical quantities are set by Nature and the laws of physics. A few of those parameters characterize assumptions I made about physical processes, specifically:

the degree of increase in Earth’s reflectivity of light because of an increase of cloud cover with an increase of temperature,

the degree of decrease in Earth’s reflectivity of light because of a decay of ice cover with an increase of temperature,

the rate of increase in Earth’s reflectivity of light because of the steady emission of air pollution particles,

the rate of increase of the infrared radiation absorptivity — heat absorptivity — of the atmosphere because of the steady emission of greenhouse gas pollution.

The parameters for the four processes just mentioned were selected so that a calculated temperature rise history from 1910 to 2020 matched the trend of the data for average global surface temperature rise during that period. That average temperature rise was 1°C between 1910 and 2020.

The two major effects involved in the dynamics of the current global heat imbalance are: heating because of the enhanced absorptivity by the atmosphere of outbound infrared radiation — which is heat; and cooling because of the enhanced reflectivity of the atmosphere to inbound sunlight.

The biosphere is in thermal equilibrium — existing at a stable average global temperature — when the rate of absorbed inbound sunlight is matched by the rate of heat radiated out into space.

Heating

Greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere capture a portion of the infrared radiation — heat — rising from the surface of the Earth, and retain it. They are able to do this because the nature of their molecules makes them highly efficient at absorbing infrared radiation. The molecules involved are primarily those of carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor (H2O), and methane (CH4).

This captured heat is then redistributed to the rest of the atmosphere by molecular collisions between the greenhouse gas molecules and the molecules of the major constituents of our air: nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2). The excess atmospheric heat evaporates more seawater, makes more clouds, drives stronger winds and causes more intense rainstorms — such as hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes — and more frequent and severe flooding.

That excess atmospheric heat is gradually absorbed by the oceans, which as a unit is the most massive and heat retentive component of the biosphere. The biosphere encompasses: the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land surface down to a depth of perhaps 10 meters, below which the temperature variations due to the seasons and the weather do not penetrate significantly. The oceans are the “heat battery” of Planet Earth.

The biosphere naturally emits a portion of the greenhouse gases contained in the atmosphere, but humanity has been adding massively to that load, and at an increasing rate since the beginning of the 20th century. So, global warming is an anthropogenic — human caused — effect.

Natural emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols include: evaporation from the surfaces of the oceans to form clouds; the ejection of sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) and ash particles by volcanic eruptions; the rising of smoke from wildfires with their loads of carbon dioxide gas and soot; the rising of windblown dust; and the bubbling up of methane gas from the rotting of organic matter on land and at the ocean bottom.

Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and soot particles from the combustion of liquid fossil fuels, coal, and biomass; and the emission of organic vapors like: methane from industrialized agriculture, mining, and oil and natural gas drilling; and ozone-depleting gases evaporated from cleaning fluids, solvents, and refrigerants.

Prior to significant anthropogenic emissions, there was a long-term balance between the natural emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and their being rained-out and reabsorbed by the land and ocean surfaces. In particular, carbon dioxide gas is absorbed by green plants, which combine it with water to form sugar — used to supply the metabolic energy for plant growth, and of the animals that feed on plants — in a process called photosynthesis, and which is powered by sunlight.

Cooling

About 30% of the sunlight incident on the Earth is reflected back into space. This light reflectivity by Planet Earth is called the albedo. Droplets of water in the atmosphere — often condensing around particles of soot, ash or dust — form into clouds, which are very efficient light reflectors, and are responsible for 24% of Earth’s reflectivity.

The other 6% of the Earth’s albedo is due to the overall light reflectivity of the surface of the Earth, which is the combined effect of reflections from the surfaces of the ice caps, oceans and lands. The rejection of a portion of the inbound solar light energy is a cooling effect.

The Earth’s albedo increases with a rise in the average global surface temperature, and with an increase in the load of aerosols in the atmosphere. Higher average temperature enhances evaporation and atmospheric humidity, creating more reflective cloud cover. A larger load of aerosols provides a greater number of light scattering particles to interfere with the influx of sunlight.

Aerosols tend to fall out and rain out of the atmosphere within a short period of weeks to months. So their contribution to the albedo — and thus to global cooling or “global dimming” — would be short-lived were they not being continuously replenished in the atmosphere by natural processes like the rainwater cycle, volcanic eruptions and wildfires; and by anthropogenic emissions of gas and aerosol pollution from the industrialized activities of civilization.

Despite the slightly greater cooling effect of Earth’s albedo being increased by the introduction of anthropogenic pollution that scatters light, the biosphere is steadily warming because the greenhouse gases also included in that anthropogenic pollution have the dominating influence.

The only way to slow global warming is to reduce — and ideally eliminate — anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gas and aerosol pollution.

Temperature History, Past and Future

Figure 1 shows the average global surface temperature rise, relative to the temperature in 1910, for the 110 years between 1910 and 2020. This calculated history matches the trend of the observational data. The temperature rise shown in Figure 1 is 1°C. The Earth in 1910 was experiencing a spatially and temporally averaged global surface temperature that I take to have been 13.75°C (56.75°F). The Earth in 2020 is experiencing a spatially and temporally averaged global surface temperature that I take to be 14.75°C (58.55°F).

Figure 1: Average Global Surface Temperature Rise between 1910 and 2020
(°C of temperature rise vs. relative time in years)

Figure 2 shows the average global surface temperature rise, relative to the temperature in 1910, for the 210 years between 1910 and 2120. Obviously, the temperature history beyond 2020 is a projection, and it is based on a continuation of the same conditions — which are reflected in a constancy of the parametric values used in my model calculation for between 1910 and 2020 — beyond 2020 for another 100 years. This is a projection of the consequences of “business as usual.”

Figure 2: Average Global Surface Temperature Rise between 1910 and 2120
(°C of temperature rise vs. relative time in years)

Three points to be observed in Figure 2 are the temperature rises of:

1.5°C (2.7°F) by 2047 (in 27 years),

2.0°C (3.6°F) by 2070 (in 50 years),

3.2°C (5.76°F) by 2120 (in 100 years).

A temperature rise of 2°C has been declared as the must-never-exceed “redline” on our global thermometer because it is seen by the widest range of climate scientists, earth scientists, biologists, ecologists and evolutionary biologists, as a threshold beyond which the Earth’s climate would run away to conditions inimicable to human and non-human habitability and survival, without any possibility of alteration by human restraint or human action.

A temperature rise of 1.5°C has been declared as the realistic upper limit humanity could allow itself to tolerate if it still wished to slow the rate of subsequent global warming, by the drastic reduction of its anthropogenic emissions of atmospheric greenhouse gas and aerosol pollution.

Responsiveness of Earth’s Climate System

By my calculation, if magically all emissions of greenhouse gases and pollution grit ceased immediately today, it would take a minimum of 9,000 to 11,000 years for the excess 1°C in the biosphere to dissipate and thus return Earth to the climate we had for 10,000 years up to about 1910. The actual recovery time could be much longer. [This estimate is based on the thermal diffusivity of seawater.]

Because the Earth’s biosphere and its climate are immense systems with immense inertia, Earth’s recognition of our hypothetically abrupt cessation of greenhouse gas emitting, and Earth’s reaction to that cessation with a climatic response — a slowing of global warming — could take over 200 years to become noticeable. [This estimate is based on my calculated e^-1 exponential decay time of 240 years.]

The timescales of the planetary processes whose interactions produce climate are much longer than those of individual human attentiveness or of current societal preoccupations.

How Should We Respond?

The physics is clear, whether reflected by my simple analytical toy model, or by the immensely intricate state-of-the-art supercomputer numerical models by the many climate science institutes.

How global warming — as a complex of interrelated physical phenomena — will affect us can be estimated by climate scientists from their models. What we should do about the present and anticipated effects of global warming remains an open question that is beyond physics, and whose answer rests entirely on human choice.

What aspects of human and non-human life do we consider essential to protect and preserve? What degree of commitment are we willing to make to strategies for the continuation of civilization that require an equitable sharing of the new burdens imposed on human activity by increases of global temperature? In short, what kind of people do we want to be as we all live out our lives in a globally warming world?

It is easy to imagine many utopian or dystopian responses to global warming. We — as a species — are completely free to choose the type of cooperative or uncooperative collective future that we wish to inhabit, for as long as Planet Earth allows us to enjoy its hospitality.

Note

If you wish to examine my global warming model for yourself, you can take a copy of it from:

A Simple Model of Global Warming
26 May 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/global-warming-model.pdf

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# Global Warming is Nuclear War

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Global Warming is Nuclear War

The average global surface temperature rose by 1°C during the 110 years between 1910 and 2020.

During the 50 years between 1910 and 1960, the average global temperature rose by 0.25°C, an average rate-of-increase of 0.005°C/year. Another 0.25°C of biosphere heating occurred during the 25 years between 1960 and 1985, a rate-of-rise of 0.010°C/year. During the 20 year span between 1985 and 2005 another 0.25°C of temperature was added, a rate-of-rise of 0.0125°C/year. During the 15 year span from 2005 to 2020 another 0.25°C of temperature rise occurred, with an average rate-of-rise of 0.0167°C/year.

While the average temperature rise of 0.25°C was the same for each of the four intervals, the first (between 1910 and 1960) required 45.5% of the 110 years between 1910 and 2020; the second (between 1960 and 1985) only required 22.7% of the 110 years; the third (between 1985 and 2005) required the smaller fraction of 18.2% of the 110 years; and the most recent period (between 2005 and 2020) took the smallest fraction of 13.6% of the 110 years.

Given that a 1°C rise of the temperature of Earth’s Biosphere (EB) is the equivalent of it absorbing, as heat, the energy yield of 109 billion Hiroshima atomic bomb explosions, we could imagine the EB being bombarded by an average of 1 billion Hiroshima bombs per year between 1910 and 2020 (within 109 year-long intervals). If that yearly bombardment were done uniformly, it could represent 2 Hiroshima bomb explosions per square kilometer of the Earth’s surface once during the year; or it could represent one Hiroshima bomb explosion per day in each 186 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface, for a worldwide bombing rate of 2.74 million/day. Global warming is very serious!

Let’s refine this analogy so it reflects the acceleration of global warming since 1910.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1910 and 1960 would represent a bombing rate of 545 million/year; or 1.5 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 342 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1960 and 1985 would represent a bombing rate of 1.09 billion/year; or 3 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 171 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1985 and 2005 would represent a bombing rate of 1.36 billion/year; or 3.73 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 137 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 2005 and 2020 would represent a bombing rate of 1.82 billion/year; or 5 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 103 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The heating rate for the 1°C temperature rise of the EB since 1910, averaged on a yearly basis, was 5.725×10^24 Joules/110years, or 5.2×10^22 Joules/year, or 1.65×10^15 Watts of continuous heating. This rate of heat storage by the EB (into the oceans) is only 0.827% of the continuous “heat glow” given off as infrared radiation by the EB (mainly at the Earth’s surface), which is 1.994×10^17 Watts at a temperature of 288.16°K (Kelvin degrees; an absolute temperature of 288.16°K = 15°C+273.16°C; absolute zero temperature occurs at -273.16°C).

If we were to imagine impulsively infusing the EB with the same amount of energy, by a regular series of “heat explosions” each of energy release equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb, then the 1 billion explosions per year (the 109 year average) would have to occur at a rate of 31.7 per second.

Atomic bombs release their energy explosively within 1 microsecond, representing a radiated power of 5.25×10^19 Watts for an energy release equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb yield (5.25×10^13 Joules). In this hypothetical exercise, I am lumping all the atomic bomb explosive yield into heat, but in real atomic explosions energy is released in a variety of forms: heat, nuclear radiation (gamma rays, energetic neutrons, X-rays, radioactive material) and blast pressure. The energy forms emitted by atomic bomb explosions ultimately heat the materials they impact and migrate through, and this is why I lump all of the bomb yield as heat.

An explosion sphere with a 56.4 centimeter diameter (22.2 inches) radiating heat at 5.25×10^19 Watts during a burst time of 1 microsecond would present a 1m^2 surface area at a temperature of 5,516,325°K = 5,516,051°C. Imagine 32 of these popping into existence at random points around the world during every second of the day and night since 109 years ago. We would certainly consider that form of global warming a crisis deserving our attention.

Because the invisible low temperature heat glow style of global warming that we actually experience does not rudely punctuate our lives with random blasts of such intense X-ray conveyed heat that any human standing nearby would simultaneously be vaporized while the molecules of that vapor were atomized and those atoms stripped of all of their electrons down to the atomic cores, we ignore it. But the heating effect on the biosphere is energetically equivalent to what we are causing with our greenhouse gas and pollution emissions.

Thermodynamically, we have greenhouse gas-bombed out of existence the pristine biosphere and its habitable climate that first cradled and nurtured the infancy of our species 2000 centuries ago, and then fed and protected the development and growth of that fragile chimera we call “civilization,” which our potentates have been proudly boasting about for at least 8,000 years. And we’re still bombing, now at an ever increasing rate.

All of the numbers quoted here come out of the results described in my report “A Simple Model of Global Warming” that I produced to help me understand quantitatively the interplay of the major physical effects that produces global warming. I invite both the scientists and the poets among you to consider it.

Global Warming Model

70% or less of the sunlight shining onto the Earth reaches the surface and is absorbed by the biosphere. From this absorbed energy, in combination with the presence of water and organic material, all life springs. The oceans, which cover 70.2% of the Earth’s surface and comprise 99.4% of the biosphere’s mass, form the great “heat battery” of the planetary surface. All weather and climate are generated from the heat glow of that battery. A portion of that heat glow, equivalent to the solar energy absorbed, must escape into space for the planetary surface to remain in heat balance, at a constant average temperature. For that temperature being 15°C (59°F), 62.31% of the heat glow must escape.

30% or more of the incident solar energy is reflected back into space, with 24% of that reflection by clouds, and 6% of that reflection from land and ocean surfaces. While snow and ice are the most nearly perfect reflective of such surfaces, they only cover 10% to 11% of the planet and that coverage is slowly being reduced by global warming, increasing the solar heating.

Our introduction of greenhouse gases and pollution particles into the atmosphere has added to the already existing load of naturally emitted humidity, organic vapors and grit from volcanic eruptions and windblown dust. These components of the atmosphere absorb and retain heat (infrared radiation), blocking some of the necessary heat glow loss, and thus warming the planet. The increasing accumulation of these components — because a warmer world has higher humidity producing more clouds, and because of our continuing emission of atmospheric pollutants — scatter an increasing portion of the incoming sunlight back into space, which is a cooling effect called “global dimming.” The imbalance of all these effects is dominated by warming and the biosphere’s temperature is rising at an accelerating rate.

My life is a race against the clock of a certain though indeterminate finality. The COVID-19 pandemic has made me very conscious of this inevitability. After seven decades of existence I cannot do everything I want, in terms of living, fast enough. This is not irrational terror, it is awakened appreciation and understanding. There is all of Shelley yet to read, and Keats, and so many more; and so many more birds and flowers, and daylight and nighttime beauties of the Nature to see, and so many more differential equations and physical problems to solve, to not want to go on living. The urge for continuation is innate, genetically programmed, whether in robotic virus particles or in cognitive life forms like cats and human beings. For me, that cognition includes the irrational emotional desire to combat global warming so that future generations of all Earth’s life forms have decent chances of continuing.

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# Endgame For Green Utopia

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Endgame For Green Utopia
[REVISED, EXPANDED, IMPROVED, 12 May2020]

On these two opposing types of responses to the movie “Planet Of The Humans”
(https://planetofthehumans.com/):

PRO: “The key, however, is that all these [‘greenish’] energy policies have to be carried out after capitalism has been wiped out and under conditions where production is based strictly on use.“

CON: “This documentary is trashy fake news. It’s Trumpian in its disdain for the facts…, they point away from real climate action solutions (such as renewable energy infrastructure) and peddle fascist snake oil of population growth i.e. advocate ecofascist genocide…Meanwhile, those of us who aren’t raving ecofascist lunatics will continue to fight to change society.”

Dreams of Utopias and illusions of self-importance die hard, even in the face of reality. Nature doesn’t care about how we fantasize; it just keeps on with its grand cycles, which those of global heating, environmental destruction and species extinction are now overstimulated by us, homo sapiens. The fundamental question here is: how good of an equitable world society could we energetically have, and by ‘greening it’ can we limit global warming?

PART 1:

The best we could possibly do would be to equalize the standard of living (Human Development Index) worldwide to HDI=0.862 (the range is from 0.28 for the poorest, to 0.97 for the richest nations), with a per capita electrical energy use of u=4000 kWh/c (kilowatt-hours-per-year/capita). The world average by nation (in 2002, and similar now) was: HDI=0.741 at u=2465 kWh/c. The U.S.A. had HDI=0.944 at u=13,456 kWh/c (a rich highly developed country). Niger had HDI=0.281 at u=40kWh/c (a poor underdeveloped country).

The recommended leveling is for nations with u>4000kWh/c to REDUCE energy use (a.k.a economic activity AND militarism), and nations with u<4000kWh/c to INCREASE energy use ENTIRELY APPLIED to raising living conditions (a.k.a. human-centered health and welfare: “socialism”).

This means world socialist government and no wars, and no nationalism.

Examples of enlightened HDI=~0.861 countries (ranked by energy efficiency) are Malta (HDI=0.867), Czech Republic (HDI=0.874), Estonia (HDI=0.853). There is no excuse for a nation to expend more than u=6560kWh/c, because that was Ireland’s usage and it had an HDI=0.946 (and a phenomenal energy efficiency as I calculate it).

All of this is to equalize the experience of whatever is going to happen to humanity because of geophysical changes (“global warming”).

My numbers for the above come from the following linked analysis (using 2002 data).

PART 2a:

From where do we source that energy powering the world-equalized “decent life”? Obviously, we use the fossil fuel and nuclear power infrastructure that we have now to power a maximum effort “full speed ahead” program of developing, building and installing greenish energy technology based on:

– solar (from light-to-heat in water, oil and brine slurry pipes; and also photovoltaics but that is materially limited for the needed exotic elements),

– wind (especially offshore),

– hydro (using existing dams-plus-reservoirs as “pumped storage” facilities, so “excess” solar energy collected during the day pumps water “uphill,” which can then be released “downhill” through the turbo-generators to produce nighttime electricity),

– wave/tidal as possible (without wrecking important inter-tidal bio-zones),

– energy conservation by building/home design (both for insulation, energy capture and greenhousing),

– energy conservation by design of appliances and the mechanical and thermal systems used industrially and for personal living,

– also a necessary transformation of our transportation sector (for bicycles, trolleys, trains, ships even with sails; and bye-bye to most planes, most cars especially big-engined SUVs and trucks, cruise ships, and all that high-waste military gear),

– also necessary is a transformation of agriculture to localized small organic multiculture farms, and away from international-aimed large oil-chemical stimulated monoculture agro-factories/feedlots/plantations.

PART 2b:

As greenish energy sources come on-line, an equivalent generating capacity of fossil and nuclear infrastructure is taken off-line AND SCRAPPED (and materially recycled/reprocessed).

The goal is to always increase the proportion of greenish technology and always decrease the proportion of old energy technology, while keeping the total energy generation such as to provide u=~4000kWh/c worldwide (to maintain HDI>0.862 worldwide).

It will never be possible to eliminate all of the old energy technology and still maintain the decent level of HDI “we” experience and is the moral right of all 7.78B (and growing) of Earth’s people to experience.

Note that fertility rates decrease (they are already negative in some rich countries) as HDI increases; so the rate of population growth will diminish as higher standards of living are widely experienced; with greater physical, heath, child, and economic survival and security, as well as education, provided socialistically worldwide.

ENDGAME:

Global warming would most likely still continue, but at a slower pace, if given all the above. So the endgame is to equalize the experience of “the geophysical inevitable” (whatever it actually ends up being), while always striving to increase energy efficiency so as to maximize HDI given the energy used.

It seems PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE to have a very high standard of living worldwide (HDI~0.9) with a per capita energy use that is at least 3x less (or, at 1/3 current US-level usage) to 7x less (or, at 1/7 current usage by the most profligate) of ‘rich, energy-wasting nation’ usage.

But global warming (the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) may be too far advanced to ever stop by throttling back or even eliminating human (economic) activity; though undoubtedly it could be noticeably slowed by such cutbacks, as has been vividly demonstrated in a very short time by the COVID-19 economic slowdown that has visibly reduced pollution, and afforded greater freedom to wildlife (seen roaming in emptied city streets around the world!).

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it. And if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

Now to all who would say that this “all in” paradigm is so psychologically and politically improbable that it will never happen, I say fine, I won’t argue it, but realize that in order to accurately and realistically gage the actual (really potential) value of whatever your scheme or dream for Utopia is, it is essential to know how to calculate what is POSSIBLE within the limits imposed by geophysics (the laws of physics and the workings of Nature) given the natural resources sustainably available from Planet Earth (this is to say without the degradation of its environments and biodiversity).

One small example. Today it is possible to use an ‘app’ on your smart-phone to alert your local coffee shop to prepare your preferred caffeinated concoction, and pay for it electronically over the vast internet-banking computer network (humming and exhausting heat 24/7), then drive to your Java pit-stop and pick up your to-go order, discarding the container after consuming the contents, which container may end up as soiled waxed paper in a municipal organic compost pile, or as plastic in a solid waste landfill, or at worst as litter.

Imagine that modality of coffee consumption is gone in the “all in” world, and instead you have to appear in person at your coffee shop — perhaps on one of your walks into town, or on the walk home from the trolley stop after work — place your order to a human being manning the Java-preparing technology, pay cash (to eliminate all the internet energy-to-heat waste), and drink your coffee from a washable mug you carry or they provide; or, extravagantly, from a paper cup that easily composts. Even more efficiently, you could buy a bag of coffee beans, take them home and grind them with a handcrank grinder, and make delicious coffee at home.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically, or by relaxing its pace. More likely these increase it.

4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World:

The 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World (HDI>0.862) would need 18% more electrical generation than in 2017 (for a world total of 30,189TWh), and applied with 62% greater efficiency for producing social value than we currently do.

In our current World Paradigm, we only get an average of 62% of the potential social value inherent in the world electrical energy generated, and which social value is also very inequitably distributed. The average 38% of annual socially wasted (SW) electrical energy (9,730TWh total at 1,289kWh/c in 2017) goes into all the Social Negativity (SN) of: capitalist-economic, nationalist-political and prejudicial-societal inequities; militarism and wars; and to a lesser degree some technical inefficiencies of electrical generation and of appliances.

The potential (or Primary) energy (PE) contained in the natural resources (all raw fuels and sources) used to generate the World Energy in 2017 was 162,494TWh; and 25,606TWh of electrical energy was generated that year, which was 15.8% of the Primary Energy. That percentage can be taken as a lower bound on the efficiency of our current conversion of raw energy resources into socially applicable energy, because some quantity of fuel (PE, with some refined) is converted by combustion directly to heat, both to drive heat engines and for industrial and personal uses (e.g., smelting, cooking, heating).

CONCLUSIONS:

For a 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World “today” we would need 18% MORE usable (electrical and available heat) energy than consumed in 2017, applied with 62% GREATER EFFICIENCY for producing social value than we do currently. Eliminating today’s Social Negativity (SN) would be the energetic equivalent of gaining 38% more energy (in our current paradigm).

But global warming will continue because it is impossible to eliminate all CO2 and greenhouse gases producing processes of energy generation and use. The rate of increase of global warming (the upward trend of temperature) can be reduced as the purely Green (non-CO2 and non-greenhouse gases producing) methods of energy production and use provide a larger portion of the total World Energy production and consumption.

EXCERPTS FROM: World Energy Consumption
[HEAVILY EDITED and AMENDED by MG,Jr]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption

According to IEA (in 2012) the goal of limiting warming to 2°C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes. If action is not taken before 2017 [sic!], CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing in 2017 [so, now they are]. Fossil fuels are dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies totaling \$523B in 2011 (up almost 30% from 2010), which is six times more than subsidies to renewables. So, limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius is now doubtful.

To limit global temperature to a hypothetical 2 degrees Celsius rise would demand a 75% decline in carbon emissions in industrial countries by 2050, if the population is 10 billion in 2050. Across 40 years [from 2010 to 2050], this averages to a 2% decrease every year.

But, since 2011 the emissions from energy production and use have continued rising despite the consensus on the basic Global Warming problem. Hypothetically, according to Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute [in 2009], in order to prevent the collapse of human civilization we would have to stop increasing emissions within a decade [by 2019!] regardless of the economy or population.

Carbon dioxide, methane and other volatile organic compounds are not the only greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and consumption. Large amounts of pollutants such as sulfurous oxides (SOx), nitrous oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (like soot) are produced from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. The World Health Organization estimates that 7 million premature deaths are caused each year by air pollution, and biomass combustion is a major contributor to that pollution. In addition to producing air pollution like fossil fuel combustion, most biomass has high CO2 emissions.

FINALLY:

Even with the 4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World, global warming would continue at a rate faster or slower depending on how low or high, respectively, a proportion of World Energy is generated and used by purely Green methods. To repeat:

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it; and if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically and by relaxing its pace. More likely it would be increased even in today’s paradigm; and most decidedly so with the elimination of Social Negativity in all its forms, which are so wasteful of energy.

Our potential civilizational collapse and subsequent extinction is up to Nature; but whether that occurs sooner or later, and with what level of shared quality of life we experience our species’ remaining lifetime, as well as its degree of equitable uniformity, is entirely up to us.

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# Most COVID-19 Contagious People Are Asymptomatic

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Most COVID-19 Contagious People Are Asymptomatic

Most COVID-19 contagious people (carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus) are asymptomatic: they show no symptoms.

Social distancing is essential to slow the pace of the pandemic since neither you nor anybody else will know who is a carrier that crosses your path. This has been amply shown by the exemplary and highly effective Vietnamese response to COVID-19 (https://consortiumnews.com/2020/04/16/covid-19-vietnam-winning-new-war-against-invisible-enemy/)

A Reuters news story of 16 April 2020 (Coronavirus clue? Most cases aboard U.S. aircraft carrier are symptom-free, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-military-sympt/coronavirus-clue-most-cases-aboard-u-s-aircraft-carrier-are-symptom-free-idUSKCN21Y2GB) notes:

Sweeping testing of the entire crew of the coronavirus-stricken U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt may have revealed a clue about the pandemic: The majority of the positive cases so far are among sailors who are asymptomatic, officials say. Roughly 60 percent of the over 600 sailors who tested positive so far have not shown symptoms of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, the Navy says. The service did not speculate about how many might later develop symptoms or remain asymptomatic. “With regard to COVID-19, we’re learning that stealth in the form of asymptomatic transmission is this adversary’s secret power,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy. The figure is higher than the 25% to 50% range offered on April 5 by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.

A Boston25News story of 15 April 2020 (CDC reviewing ‘stunning’ universal testing results from Boston homeless shelter, https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/) reports a similar finding, that: ‘1.5 weeks ago’ (in the first days of April) testing revealed 146 positives out of a population of 397 in a Boston homeless shelter. That result indicates a rate of 36.8% positive for infection AND being asymptomatic. Those positives were then quarantined separately. ‘Now’ (15 April 2020) only one needs hospital care, while many of the other positives still show no symptoms.

If there is a ~2 week (or more?) delay between infection and outbreak of symptoms (during which time the person is invisibly infectious), then that is a long latency as compared to colds and flu (days). SARS-CoV-2 is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus; and by my understanding of such +single-stranded RNA viruses, they get inside infected cells, commandeer the messenger RNA manufacturing machinery and thence the protein manufacturing machinery (ribosomes) of the cell to produce the viral components (viral RNA = virions, and protein capsules to encase them) that are assembled into new viruses that exit the cell (killing it, when a large outflux), and tearing off some of outer cell lining to wrap themselves in a lipid (fat) cover.

For details about viruses and the diseases they cause I highly recommend the 1994 book, Invisible Invaders, Viruses and the Scientists Who Pursue Them, by Peter Radetsky. It is an excellent book, well-written, with a wealth of information, and fascinating reading. It spans 200+ years of viral infectious disease discovery and vaccination development history; most of it for the 20th century.

Coronaviruses in general seem to have a very complex chemical process for coursing through their human hosts. A very technical summary of all this is given in a 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) paper, conveniently posted online (Coronaviruses: An Overview of Their Replication and Pathogenesis, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/). The relative lengthiness of this process will account for some of the ‘delay’ or ‘latency period’ between initial infection and outbreak of symptoms.

Another and more insidious factor that could contribute to that delay is this, as described (in one sentence) in the NIH paper just noted (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/):

“In several coronaviruses, S protein that does not get assembled into virions transits to the cell surface where it mediates cell–cell fusion between infected cells and adjacent, uninfected cells. This leads to the formation of giant, multinucleated cells, which allows the virus to spread within an infected organism without being detected or neutralized by virus-specific antibodies.”

In other words, some of the viral goop inside an infected cell bonds it to adjacent healthy cells into which the virus can then penetrate stealthily, out of “sight” of the antibodies of the immune system floating in our bloodstream. In that way many cells can become invisibly infected, as regards our immune system’s “radar,” — thus our asymptomatic latency period — before all viral hell breaks loose from all those “sleeper cells,” and the victim is obviously in full-blown disease.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus initially causes an upper tract respiratory disease in its infected human hosts, but it can migrate deeper down the airway, then into the lungs, and down very deep to lodge in and damage the alveoli, the ‘air sacs’ where air/oxygen enters the bloodstream through capillaries. From there it can drift along with the blood to arrive at (and possibly infect) the heart and the kidneys, these latter being another type of “spongy” organ for osmotic-type transfers (of oxygen into the blood with the alveoli, of liquid wastes out of the blood for the kidneys).

Several reports, one from 12 March 2020 is cited and quoted here (Are Kidneys Targeted by the Novel Coronavirus?, https://www.cathlabdigest.com/content/are-kidneys-targeted-novel-coronavirus), show that kidneys have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, and a significant fraction of survivors have lasting kidney damage requiring dialysis thereafter. This paper notes (in the following consolidated paragraph):

New data on coronavirus disease include some startling revelations: Kidney involvement seems to be frequent in people who have been tested positive and have developed symptoms. Two studies showed a high rate of renal abnormalities in corona-positive patients: Admitted to hospital, 34% of the 59 patients developed massively elevated levels of albumin in urine (=proteinuria), a symptom of kidney damage 63% of the study patients developed proteinuria while in hospital, and many of them also had blood loss in their urine (hematuria). Kidney function was impaired in 27% of the study population and in 66% of the patients who died from the coronavirus infection. These findings are supported by a second study involving 710 hospitalized patients: On admission, 44% had hematuria and proteinuria (26.7% had hematuria only), and kidney function decreased in nearly 15%. “This shows that COVID-19 also attacks the kidneys, not just the lungs”, explains Professor Carmine Zoccali, President of the ERA-EDTA. [ERA-EDTA is one of the biggest nephrology associations worldwide leading European nephrology and one of the most important European Medical Associations.]

Some recent news stories voice concerns that, after ventilators, kidney dialysis machinery may be the next area of medical equipment shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who died of “complications of COVID-19” might have succumbed to pneumonia (drowning because of fluid filled lungs); or hypertension heart attacks, exacerbated by obesity, where the heart was pumping furiously to try to capture and circulate oxygen from lungs that were clogging up and choking off that gas flow; or kidney failures; or any combination of these. “Old people” are more susceptible because they generally have weaker immune systems and more underlying conditions (e.g., hypertension and heart diseases, diabetes, airway constrictions/emphysema, obesity).

Many people are curious as to how COVID-19 might be similar to, or different from, the H1N1 avian flu that caused the 1918 pandemic. In particular, some observe and ask: ‘the 1918 flu targeted its fatalities in a far younger population, why?’ The culprit was “a cytokine storm in the body,” an effect that also certainly occurs to some COVID-19 unfortunates. This article on H1N1 (Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_A_virus_subtype_H1N1) notes (in the following paragraph) that:

The 1918 flu caused an unusual number of deaths, possibly due to it causing a cytokine storm in the body. (The current H5N1 bird flu, also an Influenza A virus, has a similar effect.) The Spanish flu virus infected lung cells, leading to overstimulation of the immune system via release of cytokines into the lung tissue. This leads to extensive leukocyte migration towards the lungs, causing destruction of lung tissue and secretion of liquid into the organ. This makes it difficult for the patient to breathe. In contrast to other pandemics, which mostly kill the old and the very young, the 1918 pandemic killed unusual numbers of young adults, which may have been due to their healthy immune systems mounting a too-strong and damaging response to the infection.

The article Cytokine Release Syndrome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine_release_syndrome) describes cytokine storms in greater detail (the next 2 paragraphs):

Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs. It occurs when large numbers of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which in turn activate yet more white blood cells. CRS is also an adverse effect of some monoclonal antibody drugs, as well as adoptive T-cell therapies. Severe cases have been called cytokine storms. When occurring as a result of drug administration, it is also known as an infusion reaction.

CRS occurs when large numbers of white blood cells, including B cells, T cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, dendritic cells, and monocytes are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which activate more white blood cells in a positive feedback loop of pathogenic inflammation. Immune cells are activated by stressed or infected cells through receptor-ligand interactions. This can occur when the immune system is fighting pathogens, as cytokines produced by immune cells recruit more effector immune cells such as T-cells and inflammatory monocytes (which differentiate into macrophages) to the site of inflammation or infection. In addition, pro-inflammatory cytokines binding their cognate receptor on immune cells results in activation and stimulation of further cytokine production. This process, when dysregulated, can be life-threatening due to systemic hyper-inflammation, hypotensive shock, and multi-organ failure.

So, some COVID-19 fatalities may be due to over-acting immune systems that cause massive inflammation in response to the infection, and consequently excessive cell damage to the unfortunate human victims. As auto-immune diseases demonstrate, it is possible for people of any age to have a trigger-happy immune system.

Viral particles ride on tiny droplets (aerosols) released as part of infected breath. Given the uncertainty on the scope of infection in the population you live among, and their degree of contagiousness, both because of the asymptomatic latency and the limited extent of testing (especially in the USA), your best tack is to stay away from other people’s “breath plumes,” the clouds of vapor and water droplets that expand from their mouths and noses as coughs, sneezes and exhalations (which are stronger and of longer range when exercising or under physical strain). Eventually such droplets fall to the ground. Face masks are helpful for limiting the outward range of plumes expelled by an emitter, and also for shielding impacted passers-by, by filtering the wafts of an emitter’s infected breath (hopefully attenuated by an emitter’s mask) before it reaches their own noses and mouthes.

Over time, aerosolized virus is eliminated and destroyed by the combination of sunlight, heat and humidity. These three weather-related virus-destroying factors are noted in an 11 February 2020 report, which otherwise seems overly optimistic about when SARS-CoV-2 will “go away.” (https://www.accuweather.com/en/health-wellness/coronavirus-expert-says-the-virus-will-burn-itself-out-in-about-6-months/679415)

Sunlight, as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ‘bleaches’ or ‘oxidizes’ the virus particles; heat can cook them to death (breaking them apart; heating is a technique that has been used to make weak-germ and killed-germ vaccines); and humidity can “rain out” virus particles from the atmosphere, washing them away in ground runoff, eventually to break apart. Flu is seasonal because of these effects: it expands through its human hosts in the fall and winter (in the northern hemisphere), and dissipates when sunnier warmer weather arrives (by retreating into asymptomatic wildlife hosts, usually migratory birds and also bats).

So to recapitulate, most people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic at a rate of 60%. (The two ‘full population testing’ studies cited here reported rates of 60% from over 600 infected on a US Navy aircraft carrier ship, and nearly 37% from 146 infected in a homeless Bostonian population housed in a single shelter.) For the SARS-CoV-2 virus, “stealth in the form of asymptomatic transmission is this adversary’s secret power.” That stealth, in the form of its asymptomatic latency period, seems to be due to its lengthier chemical process for reproducing itself in human host cells and then expelling itself from them, and probably also with the added subterfuge of ‘glueing’ infected cells to adjacent healthy ones, which the virus then penetrates and infects without going outside the cells so as to not alert the human immune system antibodies coursing through the bloodstream.

Social distancing and face masks — inconvenient, uncomfortable and unpopular — are essential behaviors to limit the expansive speed and range of this SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. This disease can be fatal, and it has been shown to leave lasting damage to the hearts and/or kidneys of a portion of its survivors. People most susceptible to succumbing fatally to COVID-19 are older, and/or have underlying medical conditions that weaken the operations of the lungs, and/or heart, and/or kidneys, and/or the immune system. Another morbidity factor, which can occur in people of all ages, is having a overly aggressive immune system that would unleash a cytokine storm in response to this viral infection.

The appropriate political response by the survivors of this pandemic is to support national universal healthcare, and to support the just and generous remuneration, job security and workplace safety of the frontline medical personnel attending to the sick and dying, not just during this pandemic but thereafter. Also, we must support the robust financial support of epidemic and pandemic response planning agencies, beyond the cheapskate, ‘just in time’ high-profit business-wise lower levels of support reluctantly agreed to by reactionary neoliberal privatization freaks like Donald Trump.

While several prototype vaccines and cures for COVID-19 are currently in clinical trials, it is not yet known if the SARS-CoV-19 virus will be able to be warded off once and for all with one or two antiviral vaccine “shots,” or if it will become another of the seasonally recurrent viruses, like the cold and flu viruses, that mutate (by viral “drift,” a small change in the surface H gene; or “shift,” by forming a new strand of RNA) too quickly for our medical science to ever devise an unchanging vaccine that affords us a permanent immunity.

Given this COVID-19 global experience, will humanity now find common cause to alter its various regional behaviors that in aggregate give rise to such insidious viral pandemics? We’ll see. I suppose that a science-fiction writer could craft a dystopian tale from the individual human and societal failures that we are yet likely to witness, in which our atmosphere is routinely contaminated with disease-causing viruses like SARS-CoV-2, along with our usual copious greenhouse gas and fossil fuel carbon particulate pollution, so that the human denizens of Planet Earth would then have to move about clothed in hazmat space suites with oxygen tanks, and with their livestock housed in large controlled atmosphere feedlot bubbles; and tough luck on the wildlife.

On the prospects of humanity changing its ways after this round of COVID-19, I am reminded of the last scene in the 1959 movie On The Beach, of the empty windblown streets of post-human Melbourne, Australia, with a slowly fluttering Salvation Army street banner that reads: “There is still time…Brother.”

I am grateful to Katje Erickson for pointing me to the two ‘full population testing’ studies cited here.

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Drawing by Babak Kateb, MD

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# Asymptomatic COVID-19, a Long Latency Period to Evade the Immune System?

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Asymptomatic COVID-19, a Long Latency Period to Evade the Immune System?

1.5 WEEKS AGO: testing revealed 146 positives out of 397 population (in a homeless shelter in Boston) = 36.8% positive AND asymptomatic. Those positives were then quarantined separately.

NOW: only 1 needs hospital care, while many still show no symptoms.

CONCERN RAISED: very possibly many infectious asymptomatics out and about in the general population. (https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/)

If there is a ~2 week (or more?) delay between infection and outbreak of symptoms (during which time the person is invisibly infectious), then that is a long latency as compared to colds and flu (days). SARS-CoV-2 is a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus; and by my understanding of such +single-strand RNA viruses, they get inside infected cells, commandeer the messenger RNA manufacturing machinery and thence the protein manufacturing machinery (ribosomes) of the cell to produce the viral components (viral RNA = virions?, and protein capsules) that are assembled into new viruses that exit the cell (killing it, when a large outflux), and tear off outer cell lining to wrap themselves in a lipid (fat) cover.

Coronaviruses seem to have a very complex chemical process for doing all this (according to the 2015 NCBI paper PMC4369385 = https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/) and my surmise is that that may account for a relatively long latency period between initial infection and outbreak of symptoms.

Another factor for such a delay could be this (from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/):

“In several coronaviruses, S protein that does not get assembled into virions transits to the cell surface where it mediates cell–cell fusion between infected cells and adjacent, uninfected cells. This leads to the formation of giant, multinucleated cells, which allows the virus to spread within an infected organism without being detected or neutralized by virus-specific antibodies.”

In other words, some of the viral goop bonds the infected cell to adjacent healthy cells into which the virus then penetrates stealthily, out of “sight” of the antibodies of the immune system. In that way many cells can become invisibly infected as regards our immune system “radar,” – our asymptomatic latency period – before all hell breaks loose from all those “sleeper cells” and the victim is evidently in full-blown disease.

These articles are interestingly suggestive; but beware that I have injected my own speculations here.

CDC reviewing ‘stunning’ universal testing results from Boston homeless shelter
15 April 2020
https://www.boston25news.com/news/cdc-reviewing-stunning-universal-testing-results-boston-homeless-shelter/Z253TFBO6RG4HCUAARBO4YWO64/

Coronaviruses: An Overview of Their Replication and Pathogenesis
12 February 2015
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/

Invisible Invaders, Viruses and the Scientists Who Pursue Them, by Peter Radetsky (1994), is an excellent book, well-written, wealth of information, fascinating. Spans 200+ years of viral infectious disease discovery and vaccination development history; most of it for the 20th century.

Viruses are ever changing to evade immune systems, and reliably persistent at seeking to infect animal and human hosts. Humans can be amazingly clever in deciphering viral codes and schemes — giving us the cures and vaccines we have gotten so far — but for the most part are unchanging as regards being petty and conniving in the extreme, all for the sake of seeking approval, recognition, and to profit financially from their otherwise humanitarian efforts. Behaviorally, on average we are a monoculture, and monocultures are much more easily penetrated by viral diseases, whether physical (like COVID-19), or mental (like money-making one-upmanship, a.k.a. capitalism, neoliberalism).

While I have explicitly speculated here, please note that I defer to the medical experts, like Dr. Fauci, on “what it is,” and “what we should do.” My own best estimates are informed by the articles noted above, and the following, particularly Radetsky’s book (described above and in the pictures).

Three questions by Henry Coulter, and my “answers” follow.

1. “Is this virus compatible to the one of Spanish Flu fame?”

It is somewhat similar (a positive sense single strand RNA virus for SARS-CoV-2, and maybe also for H1N1 1918 Flu), both causing (initially) respiratory diseases. SARS-CoV-2 can migrate deeper into the airway, then lungs, and down deep there in severe (life threatening) cases. Now reports (mainly from China) have emerged that for severe cases (survivors) something like 30% (??) of them develop heart damage and permanent kidney damage thereafter requiring dialysis.

MY SPECULATION: is that once the virus is deep deep in the lungs, and damaging the alveoli (where air/oxygen enters the bloodstream through capillaries), that it may drift along with the blood to arrive at the heart and the kidneys (another “spongy” organ for osmotic-type transfers), and in that way infect and damage them. People who have died from “complications of COVID-19” MIGHT then have gone because of pneumonia (drowning), or hypertension heart attacks where the heart was pumping furiously to try to capture and circulate oxygen from lungs that were clogging up and choking off that gas flow, or kidney failures.

The “old” are more susceptible because they generally have weaker immune systems, and more underlying conditions (e.g., heart diseases, diabetes, airway constrictions/emphysema, obesity).

2. “If we simply have much better communication channels to mitigate the spread.. thus lower the impact on the population.”

See the story about Vietnam’s response to the pandemic. It shows exactly that, and much more (important story).
https://consortiumnews.com/2020/04/16/covid-19-vietnam-winning-new-war-against-invisible-enemy/

3. “The Spanish flu targetted a far younger population.”

There is an extreme immune system response called a “cytokinetic storm,” and is POSSIBLY (MY SPECULATION) more likely to occur with strong young adult (not child) immune systems:

From “Cytokine Release Syndrome,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine_release_syndrome, (next 2 paragraphs):

Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs. It occurs when large numbers of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which in turn activate yet more white blood cells. CRS is also an adverse effect of some monoclonal antibody drugs, as well as adoptive T-cell therapies. Severe cases have been called cytokine storms. When occurring as a result of drug administration, it is also known as an infusion reaction.

CRS occurs when large numbers of white blood cells, including B cells, T cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, dendritic cells, and monocytes are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which activate more white blood cells in a positive feedback loop of pathogenic inflammation. Immune cells are activated by stressed or infected cells through receptor-ligand interactions. This can occur when the immune system is fighting pathogens, as cytokines produced by immune cells recruit more effector immune cells such as T-cells and inflammatory monocytes (which differentiate into macrophages) to the site of inflammation or infection. In addition, pro-inflammatory cytokines binding their cognate receptor on immune cells results in activation and stimulation of further cytokine production. This process, when dysregulated, can be life-threatening due to systemic hyper-inflammation, hypotensive shock, and multi-organ failure.

4. Henry: Stay away from other people’s “breath plumes,” the clouds of vapor and water droplets that expand from their mouths and noses on exhalations (stronger and of longer range when exercising/under physical strain), coughs and sneezes. Eventually such droplets fall to the ground.

The aerosolized virus is eliminated and destroyed by the combination of sunlight, heat and humidity.

(But that report from February 2020 may be too optimistic about when SARS-CoV-2 will “go away.” We’ll see.)

Sunlight, as UV radiation, ‘bleaches’ or ‘oxidizes’ the virus particles [MY CHARACTERIZATION]; heat can cook it to death (breaks it apart, a technique often used when making weak-germ and killed-germ vaccines), and humidity can “rain it out” of the atmosphere (on to the ground, and washed away in runoff).

FINALLY: I AM NO MEDICAL NOR VIROLOGY NOR EPIDEMIOLOGY EXPERT!! But (since I’ve been explicit with my caveats), you can share this commentary as/if you like.

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# Can COVID-19 Save Lifeboat Earth?

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Can COVID-19 Save Lifeboat Earth?

Harbhajan Singh asks [6 April 2020]: “Could COVID-19 save Lifeboat Earth?”

Many realize that eliminating humanity would make Earth healthier for Nature, plants and animals.

Many also realize that without profound changes to human behavior — by everybody, everywhere; including limiting population growth and ending greenhouse gas emissions — that humanity can not exist in balance with Nature, and both will increasingly suffer, eventually — in a few lifetimes? — fatally.

It is well documented that as human encroachment and destruction of Nature (e.g., environments and biodiversity) advances, that habitability decreases.

That decrease is due to a combination of:

— pollution (bad air, ocean plastic, dead seas, lost topsoil, lost forests, toxic land);

— climate change (and more violent weather, floods, droughts, wildfires);

— food source degradation (inorganic industrial farming, loss of natural varietals, loss of seafood), and

— greater hazards of releasing viruses (epidemics and pandemics) fatal to people.

The scientific reports get very specific on ‘this particular negative effect has this particular [human stupidity] cause’, but in aggregate they show what I’ve just outlined.

More people are realizing that humanity’s accelerating encroachment and destruction of Nature can only cause more deadly virus pandemics to plague us. Hotter environmental temperatures from global warming, and greater particulate and noxious gases pollution from human activity (industrialization, capitalism, militarism) aggravate the severity and lethality of all respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

I prefer that humanity became vastly more intelligent, and cooperative, and altruistic, and balances its existence (both individual and collective) with Nature’s timeless rhythms and geophysical limits.

The most important aspect of that wished-for cooperativeness is that we cease viewing each other as deadly rivals in a grim zero-sum game of making-money one-upmanship and competing narcissistic schemes of enslaving others.

Miraculously, the Earth is the most wonderful Paradise we know of in the entire Universe. If we treated it as such, instead of treating it like a garbage dump and sewer, it would return that appreciation, and we would knowingly experience life in this actual Paradise, for ourselves and for endless future generations.

This is not just poetry, it is fact.

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# Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?

Louis Proyect writes: “I understand the reluctance to put a plus where Trump does, but this article [“How New Jersey’s First Coronavirus Patient Survived,” in the New York Times, ~3 April 2020] indicates that a doctor who was close to death had a miraculous recovery after receiving Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine.”

Remdesivir (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remdesivir): “Remdesivir (development code GS-5734) is a novel antiviral drug in the class of nucleotide analogs. Remdesivir is an adenosine analogue, which incorporates into nascent viral RNA chains and causes their pre-mature termination. It was developed by Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus infections, though it subsequently was found to show antiviral activity against other single stranded RNA viruses such as respiratory syncytial virus, Junin virus, Lassa fever virus, Nipah virus, Hendra virus, and the coronaviruses (including MERS and SARS viruses). It is being studied for SARS-CoV-2 and Henipavirus infections. Based on success against other coronavirus infections, Gilead provided remdesivir to physicians who treated an American patient in Snohomish County, Washington in 2020, who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and is providing the compound to China to conduct a pair of trials in infected individuals with and without severe symptoms.”

Hydroxychloroquine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroxychloroquine): “Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others, is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine. Other uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda. It is taken by mouth. It is also being studied as an experimental treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Common side effects include vomiting, headache, changes in vision, and muscle weakness. Severe side effects may include allergic reactions. Although all risk cannot be excluded, it remains a treatment for rheumatic disease during pregnancy. Hydroxychloroquine is in the antimalarial and 4-aminoquinoline families of medication. Hydroxychloroquine was approved for medical use in the United States in 1955. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. In 2017, it was the 128th-most-prescribed medication in the United States, with more than five million prescriptions.”

My CONJECTURE (a non-medical person’s hypothesis) is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (causing COVID-19) may act in a somewhat similar manner to the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). If so, this hypothetical (and likely only partial) similarity might lead some doctors treating critically ill COVID-19 patients to administer the drug combination of: the antiviral drug Remdesivir to reduce the viral load, and the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine to buttress the patient’s immune system, which is assumed to be in a pre-existing weakened condition.

My following description of the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and its several disease-causing effects are drawn from the book The Invisible Invaders, Viruses And The Scientists Who Pursue Them, by Peter Radetsky, (published by Little, Brown and Company, 1991, 1994). Passages quoted from that book are woven into my interpretive discussion, below.

Bone marrow produces a number of kinds of blood cells, including “the B and T lymphocytes, which comprise an essential part of the immune system. Without these disease-fighting cells [we] couldn’t fend off the mildest infection; something as insignificant as the common cold could kill [us].”

The Epstein-Barr Virus is ubiquitous in people (~95%), it invades B lymphocyte cells, but is usually held in check by the human immune system, which produce antibodies to eliminate EBV-infected B lymphocyte cells.

In poor regions with primitive and/or inadequate hygiene (e.g., parts of Africa) children are exposed to EBV early in life (3-4 years) and may only get a mild ‘childhood’ disease of sore throat, cough and flu-like symptoms for a few days, and that’s all. “For some reason, whether because of the immaturity of their B lymphocytes (the cells the Epstein-Barr virus invades) or the immaturity of their immune system as a whole, [most of these] children infected with EBV rarely come down with any kind of obvious illness.” (The EXCEPTION to this will be described further below.) Thereafter, these minimally affected and now recovered children have antibodies to EBV.

In the developed and generally very hygienic countries, children may not be exposed to EBV until much later: adolescence and early adulthood. “But when the virus invades later, the result is usually more severe: a case of mononucleosis. In causing a more serious illness in older people, EBV acts much like other viruses, hepatitis and poliovirus among them. The reason may be that in older individuals the immune system responds inappropriately to infection. In any case, as far as EBV is concerned, at least half of the people belatedly infected with EBV experience significant illness.”

“Mononucleosis is a disease in which blood cells proliferate out of control. Here [is] a virus, EBV, that was first detected in cancer tumors [Burkitt’s lymphoma], and now [has been shown] to be intimately involved in mononucleosis, a common cancer-like disease… Mononucleosis is essentially a disease of developed countries.”

Now for the EXCEPTION.

Denis Burkitt, a Scottish surgeon and physician practicing in Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, first identified the cancer “Burkitt’s lymphoma” in African children, by engaging in a massive study and expedition between 1957 and 1961. In 1963, EBV was isolated by M. Anthony Epstein and Yvonne Barr from specimen tumors sent by Burkitt to London in 1961. If so many African children were exposed to EBV as toddlers with little consequence (and certainly no mononucleosis in early adulthood), why did some of those children develop the specific cancer of Burkitt’s lymphoma?

Obviously, the fundamental factor that can lead to Burkitt’s lymphoma is exposure to and infection by EBV.

The first necessary co-factor to developing Burkitt’s lymphoma is having “been exposed to an unusually heavy dose of the [EBV] virus.”

The second necessary co-factor to developing Burkitt’s lymphoma is “a weakened immune system.”

“It has been suggested…that Burkitt’s lymphoma arises as a result of immunological disorders in children exposed since early infancy to heavy malarial infection.” [Guy de Thé, 1978].

The fact that infection with EBV in an individual with a weak immune system can lead to cancer was proved by the case of David, “The Bubble Boy.” David was born with no immune system and lived in the sterile interior of a plastic bubble (a tent). In 1983, he was given a bone marrow transplant from his healthy sister, but he died in 1984 at the age of 12. The cause of death was cancer, “the B cells that David had obtained through the bone marrow transplant had run amok. He died of cancer of the B lymphocytes, with tumors similar to Burkitt’s lymphoma. All the cancer cells contained Epstein-Barr virus. [David’s] sister had at some point been exposed without harm to EBV; she passed on this otherwise harmless dose to David through her bone marrow.”

Epstein-Barr virus causes a very broad stimulation of B-cell growth. Out of that a tumor can develop if given “some kind of other agent that compromises the immune system… In the case of Burkitt’s lymphoma, that agent is almost certainly malaria.”

Guy de Thé [1984]: “We know that very early viral infection can lead to Burkitt’s lymphoma. It’s a situation exactly like [that of] cigarette smoking and lung cancer. You don’t fully understand the mechanism, but you can measure the risk. Very heavy and early exposure to EBV is as though you were smoking all your life, two packs a day. Then malaria enters at the second level, by promoting further proliferation of the B cells infected with EBV. We’re all infected by EBV, but nothing happens to most of us because our immune system controls the infected B cells. Malaria specifically depresses the part of the immune system whose job it is to control the B cells. And after that, something, possibly a chance event, induced by nobody knows what, causes a change in chromosomes that transforms the cell into a tumor cell.”

Now, recall the CONJECTURE. Hypothetically, a similarity of causes exists between:

— the cause of serious COVID-19 illness and death (by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, plus an assumed immunodeficiency co-factor), and

— the cause of Burkitt’s lymphoma, as well David “Bubble Boy’s” cancer of the B lymphocytes (by the Epstein-Barr virus, plus an immunodeficiency co-factor; which for Burkitt’s lymphoma is malaria, and for David was a complete lack of an immune system).

Some doctors working under the stress of trying to save dying people during the explosive growth of this current COVID-19 pandemic, and who may have made conjectures about causes similar to the one stated here, arrived at the drug cocktail of:

— Remdesivir, to try a direct reduction the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the patient’s respiratory tissues; and

— Hydroxychloroquine, to buttress an assumed immunodeficiency — as with malaria — of inadequate control of B lymphocyte cells presumably infected with the virus.

So much for my amateur speculations on the Remdesivir plus Hydroxychloroquine cocktail administered to some COVID-19 patients.

What I can see clearly as fact is that doctors and virologists are in a frantic race against death (within days to a couple of weeks for the unlucky patients), to save as many COVID-19 stricken as they can, while yet having incomplete knowledge about the mechanism, and its unknown associated co-factors, by which the SARS-CoV-2 virus actually causes fatalities. Also, they are simultaneously trying to ascertain the details of both the progression of infection and the nature of all associated co-factors that aggravate the disease to the point of fatality, so as to then be able to design drugs that cure COVID-19, and vaccines that can prevent people from developing the disease if exposed to the virus.

Both as individuals and as a society we should be very grateful to the medical people working so furiously — and for many at great personal risk — on COVID-19 today, and on all the as yet little-known and untamed viruses that might infect us in the future; and we should support their work fully (politically and financially) as a matter of public health national policy. “Public” as in Medicare-For-All, and as in drug and vaccine development that is as much a publicly funded and owned service, rather than only a for-profit exploitation of human need by a mercenary pharmaceutical industry.

Acknowledgement: I want to thank Gretchen Hennig for giving me a copy of Radetsky’s book, and for explaining the concept of “viral load” to me.

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# Our Virally Porous Walls

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Our Virally Porous Walls

“The Invisible Invaders” is the title of Peter Radetsky’s book on “viruses and the scientists who pursue them.” It is a richly detailed, smoothly written primer on the subject for the non-biochemist. This book arcs through four topics:

first: a history from 1744 to 1930 of the development of the medical science and vaccines aimed at combatting infectious diseases (for smallpox in 1796 by Edward Jenner [1749-1823], for rabies in 1885 by Louis Pasteur [1822-1895]); the discovery of the virus in 1898 by Martinus Beijerinck (1851-1931); and the discovery in 1917 by Félix d’Hérelle (1873-1949) that viruses could attack and kill bacteria — which are living cells;

second: the science of virology, and the present understanding that viruses are parasitic forms of ribonucleic acid (RNA) or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that invade living cells and hijack their functional programming, so as to reproduce and expel more viruses;

third: modern-day concerns and discoveries about viral diseases: colds, herpes, flu, hepatitis, cancer, AIDS;

fourth: gene therapy inspired by natural viral action, the intentional manipulation of biochemical dynamics to thwart viral infections and to artificially create designer proteins for desired purposes.

Radestsky states that: “[Most] of us have little idea of the impact viruses have on our lives. For they are not simply dangerous enemies, the only organisms besides ourselves that pose a threat to our survival; they’re our co-travelers in life, our most intimate fellow workers. Viruses are literally everywhere — inside us, outside us, constantly permeating the boundaries of the self… They may swap our genes around, rearrange our destinies, act as agents of the ecosystem. In their admirable simplicity and appalling efficiency, they may be the most successful life-form of all… if they can be said to be alive in the first place.”

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). We can metaphorically visualize a viral pandemic in a manner similar to the antique and unscientific ideas that the causes of inexplicable epidemics were astrological “influenza,” and bad airs, “malaria,” wafting out of swamps; by imagining viral epidemics as very tenuous and filamentary clouds of sub-microscopic nucleic acid particles, each wrapped in fat and coated with protein, that are all coursing through our atmosphere, propelled by air currents on every scale from weather systems to human exhalations, and despite their extreme fragility have the power to penetrate through our civilization and into our very bodies and once there to penetrate into the core genetic control units of our cellular functioning — and disrupt it.

We can never perfectly wall ourselves off from viruses, to them our bodies and our patterns of living are so easily permeable. Our surest defense against viral diseases for which we have no vaccines is avoidance of infection. Such avoidance if afforded by a combination of distancing from infectious people and environments (whether visibly or invisibly contaminated), and the conscientious frequent application of personal hygienic practices and household and occupational sterilization protocols. Physically, and mindlessly behaviorally, we are an open weave to viruses, a rich meshwork of protoplasm waiting to be virally colonized and explosively exploited.

The reason we have been hit so hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with its still increasing force, is that the United States is a nation and society structured like a Matryoshka Doll that imprisons its people but is transparent to viruses. We each are walled in by many types of barriers intended to exclude us from the ‘tribal clubs’ of others, those barriers being: ageist, bigoted, cultural, ethnic, financial, intellectual, political, racist, religious and sexual; we humans can come up with an endless array of repulsive distinctions about ourselves.

We have a multiplicity of forms of imposed isolation, of social distancing, each tailored to the individual’s demographic characteristics, to their sociological DNA if you will. We all live within walls, within outer walls, within still outer walls, and so on for many layers of confinement away from the more favored tribes and classes, yet also shielded from the more unfortunate ones. This structure of social fragmentation and hierarchical survival is the embodiment of capitalist civilization. It is the separations and differences and conflicts and jealousies and inequalities that exist among us that create the necessary socio-political spaces and the material opportunities to prosecute individualistic capitalist schemes, those personal drives toward profits — and also for crimes and wars.

That drive towards profits — in its extreme it is pure narcissism — is impossible to even imagine in a hypothetical society of ideal socialism, a society that has been largely homogenized in the sense of eradicating all the artificial exclusionary distinctions that define the house-of-cards capitalist paradigm. That those distinctions were always illusory and only seemed intellectually sacrosanct and physically rigid was because the popular will of the nation’s many individuals had been trained over many generations by pro-capitalist anti-socialist mass indoctrination to unconsciously project the capitalist paradigm that is imprisoning them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has collapsed the illusion of that paradigmatic rigidity, of the reality of capitalism. The viral ‘cloud’ has easily penetrated through not just our bodies, but the exclusionary distinctions we previously thought of as either protective shields or barriers to our aspirations. The collapse of those illusions is experienced by the benefactors of the capitalist economy as fears of economic depression and of political revolt by the laboring masses. The collapse of those same illusions is experienced by the masses excluded from prosperity in the current paradigm, as an awakening to and anger over the unreality of the many strains of slavery we all have imagined ourselves into for so long, and an awakening to the breathtaking proximity to us of the bracingly real alternate and liberating paradigm of socialism. We can actually all live better, happier and more securely starting right away! It is solely a matter of popular will.

During this pandemic many have already stated the obvious: any successful effort to end these epidemics will necessarily be a socialist action, and the more socialist those efforts are, the greater the degree of their ultimate successes. Our exclusionary ‘walls’ and clashes of hoarding behaviors are transparent to viruses, only social solidarity can be made reasonably opaque to them. To effectively combat viral epidemics we must close up the now-gaping weave of human civilization. Such a closing up will encounter much friction and resistance, as each person seeks to preserve their private bubble of self-importance, money-making, irrational fantasy and bigoted exclusivity, which are the forces of repulsion within our atomistic social collectivity. The capitalist benefactors will actualize their resistance to the closing up of the human social weave, their economic collapse fears of the awakened and just anger of the exploited masses, by tossing bribes and police-enforced compulsion at them: the smallest, cheapest weight they can put on the lid of the bubbling cauldron of neoliberal capitalism to keep it from flying off as it boils over.

Despite the widespread and atomizing disorientation of American society in reaction to COVID-19, as if it were some impending apocalypse, it would be wise to become disciplined, rational and socialist, and to realize that this pandemic is but a skirmish in the monumental and unavoidable karmic war we now must face against our own narcissistic desecration of Nature, and which we call climate change.

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