Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

How environmental destruction increases the risk of pandemics

“We disrupt eco-systems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” So argues David Quammen in We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic, New York Times, 28 January. There have been a number of similar articles pointing out the link between human destruction of biodiversity and the prevalence of viruses that cross the barrier between wild animals and humans. I have found it useful to summarise them and so am sharing here in case it is helpful for others also.

Why is the skylark shouting?

We’re doing a daily bird-watching hour as part of our family coronavirus WhatsApp group. Obviously there’s quite a big risk of repetition of sightings of sparrows, or the Groundhog Day magpie who learns anew each morning that it can’t hang onto the fat ball feeder long enough to get a bite in, so I was dead pleased yesterday to see a lark rising vertically up into the blue sky from the moorlands on the ascent of Tor y Foel (social distancing of at least 200m from the four other people I saw also out for a bit of exercise).

Isolation playlist

One of the upsides of Coronavirus home isolation is an increased chance to listen to music. In more normal times, I mostly discover new bands from chance attendance at concerts, and hear new tunes in record shops. In what might become a temporary/regular markontour feature, I offer up for collective enjoyment the bands and songs I have instead been introduced to in the last week via radio (mostly BBC Radio 6 Music and KEXP), Spotify and YouTube:

Sierra Ferrell at the Teragram Ballroom

It’s been a markontour rule to always make an effort to see the support act, ever since I ill-advisedly bought tickets to see Simply Red (it was about 1988) but was rewarded by being introduced to The La’s. It is an approach to gig-going that reaped rewards again on Friday night, when Sierra Ferrell stole the show at the Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles.

Stargazing in Hollywood

I have long intended to start a blog site dedicated to reviews of planetariums and observatories. It would have been even more niche than markontour’s usual output, so perhaps it’s just as well it never happened. But if I were to start such a stargazers blog, the Griffith Observatory and park in Los Angeles, which I visited this weekend, would have to be the first entry.

The Black Pumas

It has always been a markontour rule that while it is clearly wrong to assess a person by their looks, and generally an error to judge a book by its cover, it is completely acceptable to buy music on the basis of the album artwork alone. It is an approach that has stood me in good stead from London Calling to the Stone Roses, and is thoroughly vindicated in the case of the Black Pumas.