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Mike Davis, 'The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu'

New Press, 2005. ISBN 1 59558 011 5; 210pp; £12.99

People who want to change the world must buy this book.

Avian influenza, or “bird flu”, is going to change the world, and affect every struggle we are involved in, from global trade to the war in Iraq, via the world economy, immigration and animal rights. Mike Davis has put together a dense, readable book setting out the nature of the problem, and the deeper roots of the crisis in the present world system - in intensive agro-industry, dispossessed Third World slums, and corporate greed.

This is what the well-informed radical political activist needs to know - the politics of the pandemic that's coming, and what we can do about it now, to uphold global solidarity and to limit the damage to the world's peoples.

”When Newsweek asked a leading microbiologist [in late 2004] whether a pandemic was possible, he replied, `I don't think we completely understand why it hasn't happened already.' Indeed, there was agreement among researchers that a [bird flu] pandemic was not simply imminent, it was `late'.” (p123)

The UN puts the worst-case death toll at 50 million. Actually, the worst-case scenario with the most recent type of bird flu is 1 billion human deaths (p126).

There is not simply one bird flu virus (H5N1) threatening to spread into human beings (and beyond); there are several strains that are nearly ready to start pandemics.

What we need is a global health system adequate to these threats. What we need is an end to immoral patents on vital drugs. What we need is funding for poor front line states to help delay the outbreak and give scientists more time to develop vaccines. What we need is a more humane agriculture, and a more just economy, that will slow down rather than accelerate the generation of these lethal viruses.

Topics: Global Justice