On October 17 at 5:04 pm a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked central California along the San Andreas fault system. This earthquake was captured on the live broadcast of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. This natural disaster caused 63 deaths, injured 3,800 more, and caused an estimated 6 billion dollars in property damage. Brick buildings crumbled, freeways crashed down, a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, and the Marina neighborhood sank as the ground turned to quicksand as a result of the shaking. The reason I bring up this history lesson is that I see many parallels to our current crisis. Of course, there are obvious differences, but I want to point out a few key takeaways that can help us presently.
Earthquakes are natural. They are the tax we pay for living on Earth. Viruses are also natural. They are also a tax we have to pay for living on Earth. The very specific environmental requirements that are needed for human life to exist are also what allow viruses to exist. This means through our evolution (or creation), we have to be able to deal with these viruses and other bugs to survive. As I mentioned previously (click here for last week’s newsletter), this built-in adaptability is what allows us to be the most dominant species on the planet.
So here is the question that I will pose: should we focus on the host or should we focus on the pathogen?
Going back to the earthquake analogy we are using today, should we focus on stopping earthquakes or should we focus on building homes and offices with strong, reinforced foundations? The buildings that were not up to code or very old endured the bulk of the damage.
Thinking in terms of either/or is convenient for our thought exercise, but in reality (thankfully) it can be a both/and situation.
But what’s the proper ratio? On Facebook, Twitter, and the nightly news, nearly all the attention is spent on the pathogen and not the host.
It has been very easy to feel helpless during this crisis but we have the opportunity right now to take better care of our bodies, allowing it to perform at its best. After the earthquake in 1989, there was a massive effort to retrofit old buildings to make them more earthquake resistant. New building codes and policies were put in place to prevent the same level of devastation in the future. In addition, there were advancements in technology to provide early detection and communication.
Earthquakes will never go away and neither will viruses and bugs. So let’s spend more time on building strong buildings and bodies so that the next time disaster strikes, we will be ready.