We are our own worst enemies

Editorial, Normal

The National

THE World Health Organisation is cautioning the world to brace itself for another round of the swine flu epidemic.
And it will make its rounds and come back again and again. Actually it is here to stay as are most other globe trotters, the HIV, the virus that causes AIDS among them.
Some of them have acquired generic animal names such as “swine flu” and “bird flu”. That is unfortunate because man just cannot blame himself for anything, can he?
Always it is some other plant or animal that seems to be the cause of our ailments.
But it has to be said most diseases, both animal and plant types, used to be localised in certain geographic locations until mankind came along.
Man became the vector, either through his person or his habits that spread the world’s viruses, fungi, bacteria and pests throughout the world.
If there is anybody that is to blame, he only has himself.
They say the bird flu took its name from the fact that wild ducks used to contract the flu. It bred on the birds and spread as fast as the birds could fly and when they migrated, they took the flu with them.
But these animals were creatures of habit. Their migratory patterns were predictable so one could virtually localise a bird flu outbreak to areas where the particular flock was. Then it spread to domesticated chicken and from there it was a quick trip to man who cannot do without this flightless bird.
And man, who has neither feathers nor wings, can fly faster than any flight of ducks and further than any bird. He can cross countries and continents within hours.
Quite suddenly Europe’s foot and mouth disease is able to traverse half a world in the time that the supersonic Concord takes to cross from Heathrow, London, to JFK, New York.
Suddenly Japanese pests can become domicile in Peru or Indian coffee rust can be found on the plantations of Sogeri in PNG.
HIV/AIDS did not start in Papua New Guinea. It was brought here from across the world by a citizen who had been abroad or by a visitor to this country or via certain medicinal vials. The first case was only discovered in 1987.
Now it has found a comfortable home here and from all indications, it is here to stay.
A host of other plant and animal diseases in viruses, fungi, bacteria and plant eating pests which are not native to this country are now posing a threat to our wild and domestic plant and animal life.
The cost to this nation of these non-human terrorists is huge.
Everywhere in the world, this is happening because of man’s unquenchable thirst for more and more without the slightest regard for what he is doing to the plant and animal life on the planet.
He is not just satisfied with what is on his own land. He wants what the neighbour has. When he does that, he begets not only the positive aspects, but also the negative bits as well.
As we turn away from our traditional taro, yams, kaukau and sago, and crave overseas farmed food, they are transported to us with some uninvited passengers such as pests and diseases.
However strict our quarantine measures and however stringent the health standards of the exporter, something will always pass their notice. That is the unwelcome passenger who will create problems in time.
Often, when that happens the new country that a pest or virus or bacteria enters has no natural defences. It strikes at will and often with disastrous results. An example is Lae’s termite infestation.
Although PNG is a land of forests, somebody decided to bring over timber from Queensland once. Termites in the timber caused hundreds of thousands of kina worth of damage and ate away half of the Angau Memorial Hospital.
That is all the more reason why our policy makers and governments must look towards self-reliance for our most basic needs.
There is no reason for PNG to be a net importer of food and clothing and material for shelter.
Any government worth its salt should be concentrating all energies on ensuring that we have good self sufficiency and security, that there are local clothing factories and that homes are build of local material and affordable.
Citizens should travel abroad less often and more around their own country. It makes economic sense because you spend your kina in-country but more so you are less likely to bring back something that will threaten yourself or your fellow citizens.