And he told them about this new God, the Creator of all the world and all the men and women. He told them that they worshipped false gods, gods of wood and stone. A deep murmur went through the crowd when he said this. He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. –Chinua Achebe (1958)
There’s something fishy about the bushmeat narrative of Ebola.
In August we explored the way the story internalizes the outbreak to local West Africans. It’s part of the ooga booga epidemiology that detracts from the circuits of capital, originating in New York, London and elsewhere, that fund the development and deforestation driving the emergence of new diseases in the global South.
But in addition, and not unconnected, there’s something missing from the model’s purported etiology. Indeed, Ebola may have almost nothing, or only something tangentially, to do with the bushmeat trade.
In this new commentary just published in Environment and Planning A, a team of ecohealth scientists of which I’m a part proposes Ebola emerged out of a phase change in West Africa’s agroecology brought about by neoliberal development.