Geography 101 to Covid-19

Years ago in college I needed three science credits to graduate. After pushing it off for a couple of years my judgement day was rapidly closing in. Biology, chemistry and the like were not an area where I had excelled in high school.  Excelled, hell I barely got through.  After studying the college course listings a flash of genius came to me. I need 3 credit hours the next term and bingo there it was. Geography 101 was staring back.  How hard can geography be?   I know about the continents, countries, oceans, I could even name and locate most of the states. This will be a fluff course for sure, no real work just show up, a B transfers,  I’m good.

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men or something like that go awry. But this time it was great. My fluff course became an overnight or maybe over three week success. The elderly professor entered the room each class with his erudite appearance. There were the usual geography topics but then he moved into why he loved geography and made a career of it. Being a professor I assume paid his bills but his ongoing studies were his love. I had never heard of this before but his interest and best work was in studying the geography of diseases. Amazing and interesting in his research he gathered all the information he could on a disease. His efforts were to pinpoint all the common characteristics and put them together. Where were the first cases, most cases, age most effected, did it thrive in the tropics or in cold climates?  Was it seasonal? Were  there any geographic traits such low lying, swamp lands, high mountains, dry climate etc?  When he had collected all the information then the hard work commenced, the science began.  Reviewing, analyzing, drawing conclusions then making it public. Open to peer reviews and general criticism. Although I did find this fascinating, I think I got my B but I decided not to pursue this type of study or career. So why flash back now when the  world seems  tops turvy?

As we confront the coronavirus in our daily lives with people losing jobs, restaurant and bar uses closing or resorting to drive thru only, or take out or deliveries etc,  this geography of diseases came to mind. The President of the US is being criticized, called xenophobic because of his use of the term China virus. We have read that the coronavirus, covid-19 origininated in Wuhan, China. It’s everywhere now. Does that make it a China virus with all of those prejudicial implications?  The virus mutated in China but I don’t believe China should claim it or be blamed for it.

Researchers are stating it originated in animals and the virus mutated and extended into humans.  Also satellite imagery over the past year has shown that heavy pollution due to trucks and cars has diminished significantly due to the current restrictive travel. Pollution reduction and environmental factors, may be slowing the spread or at least helping to reduce this pandemic.  This does not change the cause or diminish the actions we need to take but perhaps there is a lesson learned.  Less running around in our cars and general commercial transportation may be required of us in the future.  How we compensate for the economic implications will necessitate ongoing oversight.  I don’t mean to draw unrealistic conclusions from satellite photos or blame the coronavirus on pollution but we can’t leave the environment to Greta and other young people. Would less world pollution have prevented or stopped the rapid spread of the coronavirus, I do not know. I do believe that Geography 101 was more important than I thought. I hope there are geographers studying it along with other researchers and medical scientists.

We may actually have a cure for this someday. Cure or not I am confident better controls will be initiated to stop and reduce its spread. My hope is that both science and the environment are elevated to the levels reached in the past. We must as a nation believe in science and our scientists. Supporting, contributing and funding research is essential for our well being and the well being of our planet.


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