- Zoonoses - 

Uncontrolled habitat fragmentation and industrial livestock production caused Covid-49 pandemic

It’s 2050 and the world is still suffering from the consequences of Covid-49, linked ot a novel zoonotic disease outbreak transmitted from cows to humans. As a consequence, humanity is facing a  10 times higher death toll than the one caused by Covid-19 back in the 2020s. Scientifics and policy-makers identified environmental destruction in past decades as the main cause.

There is barely any natural forest left. Emblematic ecosystems such as the Amazon have been destroyed. Urbanisation and the development of mega-cities have largely impacted wildlife and ecosystems with more than 90% of the world population living in urban areas in 2050, surpassing the UN’s prediction of 68% urbanization rate made back in 2018. Wildlife is a word merely experienced through history books. Practices such as uncontrolled waste disposal as well as mismanagement of wastewater serve as a fertile ground for zoonoses such as one linked to the Covid-35 outbreak, which occurred in the suburbs of Philadelphia back in 2035. Inhabitants of this planet are now used to eat processed food, mainly generated in laboratories. 

To keep pace and remain competitive, the livestock industry had to increase scale and industrialise its practices since the early 2000s, including urban livestock farms. Until recently, the industry was doing fairly well with companies based in Patagonia making double-digit profits selling low-quality meet on global markets. Yet, it is exactly in this region where the latest major pandemic we are now facing might have started according to recent scientific findings, as the deaths of thousands of cows were observed, infecting human populations living nearby at a pace never seen before.

Humanity has shown to be ill-equipped in the past, as policy measures were taken under Covid-19 and Covid-35 only lasted for a few years before being abandoned due to lack of interest among governments and the general public. Let’s hope we finally learn our lesson this time!


- AMR - 

Mortality rate is at an all-time high as a consequence of antimicrobial resistance  

In 2050, we reached an all-time high due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We could have seen this coming. Since the mid-1950s, humanity has been using stronger and higher quantities of antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasites, which created the conditions tforo the current AMR crisis the world is facing since 2049. Vice versa, to counter the emergence of AMR, healthcare systems were forced to increase their usage of these treatments, which has worsened the situation.

Low-resource settings such as Australia or Switzerland have been impacted much more heavily compared to high-resource settings. Indeed, in countries that have higher medical standards and better levels of biosecurity, relatively fewer people died. At the same time, the lack of availability of effective antibiotics in some places is limiting their chances for development. Related social injustice and disparities in health coverage have increased significantly and pose a risk of unrest.

As the risk of AMR has never been addressed adequately, common infections such as urinary tract infections, which used to be treated by ciprofloxacin a commonly used antibiotic, could not be treated anymore. Global life expectancy has drastically fallen to 50 years in 2050 while it was at 105 years globally in 2045. This is also explained by the fact that due to the absence of effective antibiotics, medical procedures became riskier over the past years which led to fewer people receiving the medical treatments they needed.


- Food safety & security -

Norovirus causes major nutriment drop 

2050, leafy greens were banned first by the FDFA in the US and later by other food agencies around the world after millions of people got infected with a highly mutated variant of Norovirus, provoking a global pandemic causing many deaths and leading to massive economic losses. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and beet greens, played a major nutritive role in ensuring population health before the crisis (e.g. lowering the risk of heart diseases or decreasing inflammation in people’s bodies). 

After the crisis and the subsequent ban on leafy greens, food agencies around the world agreed on a series of draconian safety measures required to produce these vegetables that made it impossible for farmers to adopt at scale. These vegetables were deemed not profitable and the production was abandoned by almost the entire industry. A few specialized farmers were able to adapt to the new regulations and continued the production, selling the rarity to a few wealthy consumers. While leafy greens were the main source of vitamins for most humans before the crisis, things look different mid-century. Their disappearance from the supermarkets led to a massive spike in diet-related diseases linked to the low consumption of greens. 

Now, several years after leafy greens put civilization on the brink of collapse and have been banned from supermarkets, they are about to come back to the shelves of grocery stores, not only highly exquisite gourmet institutions. An Israeli start-up that took long-forgotten old research papers on CRISPR as a starting point to improve gene-editing technology specialized in vegetables has successfully genetically modified super lettuce that is resistant to all known traces of norovirus, making it suitable for human consumption again. No data is yet available on the impact of this CRISPR 2.0 super green on human health. While the start-up has already raised massive funds for huge marketing campaigns to lure consumers even before the sale starts, many countries are seeing thousands of students on the streets as the previous use of CRISPR technology had caused human deformities in several proven cases around the world just a decade earlier.