Book Preface and CHAPTER ONE: Isaac Romano, Director, OWHR Institute – Quebec, Posits a Crucial Globally Binding Protocol, Within a 21st Century Medical Ethics Model For Discussion and Policy Direction:
Why It’s Important To Secure Global Convention Safety on Biological Weapons in a Pandemic-Shaken World
Isaac Romano, M.Sc
Today, in global “real-politik”, the use of biological weapons has become a viable option for non-democratic states and even for covert operations in western “superpower” nations. Global citizens risk being targets of germ warfare and environmental toxification, at the hands of so-called enemy states or even at the hands of one’s own government, in the quest for global power, hegemony and/or social engineering. As of July 20, 2020, 597,105 COVID-19 related deaths were reported by the World Health Organization. Many of those deaths may have been preventable had states acted, with foresight, in the best interests of individual and public health. In addition to acting with intent and deliberation, governmental neglect, inaction or ill-conceived action may also result in mass death in the population. The author argues that state decision-making and acts of hegemonic power demonstrate the need to move beyond the “power and domination model” of global relations – an “Ancient Habit Pattern” (Jackins, 1987) of unsophisticated social relations. Romano articulates a pathway for preparing international conventions, with agreements that are binding and enforceable, prohibiting the use of biological weapons.
COVID – 19
Ethical Medical Policy
I dedicate this chapter to the movers and shakers who are speaking and writing about the longing of humankind for true security. Those who deeply cherish and strive for a world of love, and deep care that all people truly long for. As we rid all humanity of the “Ancient Habit Pattern” of states using” power, domination and violence that has been an utter failure for the past six thousand plus years. And honoring leaders espousing Policies of Generosity, included are Joshua Abraham Heschel, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cornel West.
Chapter Author Biography:
Isaac Romano was born in Seattle, Washington, USA in 1948. He received a Bachelor of Music from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington in 1971: a M.Sc. in Early Childhood Leadership at Bank Street College, New York City in 1992. In 2006, Isaac left his Ph.D. program in Developmental Child Psychology at the Union Institute in Cincinnati, to facilitate support for war resistors as part of his peace movement involvement. He completed all course work except the submission of his dissertation.
Today, Isaac Romano is founder and executive director of the Our Way Home Research Institute for War Resistance and Policy Alternatives-Quebec and co-coordinator of the Jewish Community Center of the Eastern Townships and Montreal-NSP. Originally from the leadership of Seattle’s Kadima, Isaac Romano’s welcoming diversity skills and bridge building programs have brought major media attention to his war resistance and community building projects in the U.S. and in Eastern and Western Canada. Most recently Isaac Romano was invited to speak to 3000 Muslim women, men and children, as the lone Jewish invitee to the December 2013 Palais des Congrès de Montréal conference opposing Quebec’s discriminatory charter of values legislation.
Isaac Romano’s work with children and families informed his peace and community building work, to create a world without violence. Romano was among the Our Way Home Research Institute presenters at the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Canadian Studies’ International Conference, “Canada as refuge?” in May 2008, and his peace work is highlighted in both the Sunday New York Times and frontpage Los Angeles Times.
Affiliation: Executive Director, OWHR Institute for War Resistance and Policy Alternatives-Quebec
I acknowledge the traditional peoples of Quebec where I live as a settler – the Abanaki of the Eastern Townships and the Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) of Montreal/Tioh:take. In Quebec, we also acknowledge the Inuit, les Abenakis, les Algonquins, les Atikamekws, les Crees, les Malecites, les Mi’kmaqs, les Innus, les Naskapis, les Wendats and Mohawks and the Metis (les Metisses). I am grateful to live upon this land and, as a Jewish man, am aware of the importance of safety from genocide.
This current pandemic of COVID-19 points us to a possible future of pandemics in which states may opt for non-democratic and violent means of addressing their populations. To date (as of July 23, 2020) 14,971,036 cases of the corona virus have been reported to the World Health Organization; to date there are 618,017 reported deaths. This “COVID – 19 attack” has occurred alongside calls to stop state and systemic violence, as seen in the “Black Lives Matter” uprising and in its corollary, the Defund The Police (DTP) movement. These events are connected by the unethical and tyrannical state response to inequality and suffering, in the social world as well as in systems such as justice and health care. For example, many of the deaths in the U.S. are related to people with pre-existing conditions who, for poverty-related and policy-related reasons, have limited or no access to funded medical care. The injustices are “stacked up” on a series of earlier injustices.
This chapter reflects the need for policies and conventions which align with the trans-national shared desire for states to approach its citizenry with generosity, love, caring and true security, globally. The author has been influenced and inspired by peace and justice-oriented social thinkers and theorists, such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Michael Lerner who states that “the moment is now to do what is right, not what is realistic.” I must align myself with Oxford economist and political scientist G.D.H. Cole (1941) when (in his book Preface) he says, after being at war for two years with Germany and the Axis powers:
I am well aware that this chapter has many faults. … There are many things in it about which I am far from certain, and may quite possibly change my mind. But there are things which, at this moment, I feel needs discussing without loss of time. I have therefore written quickly, amid many other preoccupations, for fear of missing the right moment for getting them said. If, in the course of saying them, I have given cause for annoyance, I can only plead that what is important at this moment, is not polish but candor, in an attempt to face sincerely and realistically a situation in which it matters immensely what is done, not in months or years, but in days and weeks that lie just ahead of us. I’ve never greatly minded making mistakes, if I did the help to stimulate thinking. …The process is uncompleted because, with the world in its present state, we’re all of us groping in the dark”.
Today, again, the world finds itself at a moment in time when we must act swiftly. We learn as we go and we know that learning involves making mistakes. However, we must act. We cannot wait until we have all the knowledge, that will be too late. Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in a situation where we must act, to control viral spread, to produce masks, vaccines and effective policies on physical distancing. Still, we do not know what the corona virus will do, but we must act the best that we can.
Stress can be defined as “the accumulation of unprocessed
physical and emotional pain.” (Solter, 1992)
In terms of stressful life events, a pandemic could well be near the top, if it had been included in the list. However, amidst divorce, death of a loved one, moving, and job loss, one finds “major illness or injury”, which could well relate to a pandemic. In fact, sociologists and activists might posit that one’s ability to survive a pandemic is related to issues of class, such as quality of food, healthy lifestyle, no pre-existing conditions as well as access to unimpeded health care. In Canada, COVID-19 CERB payments have certainly helped to relieve some stress for citizens; however, with the increased stress on parents, the confinement of family members together indoors, one could actually experience all five of these stress factors. Certainly, violence against women has been reported at heightened levels during this pandemic (Roesch et al, 2020). But before we engage the subject of global population security during and post-pandemics, it is important to address certain fundamental questions, such as “what is a pandemic?”
What is a pandemic?
There has been some debate over the term pandemic in the scientific community. During the spread of H1N1 in early 2009 “uses of the term by official health agencies, scientists, and the media often seemed to be at odds (Porta, 2014). For example, some argued that a level of explosive transmissibility was sufficient to declare a pandemic, whereas others maintained that severity of infection should also be considered.” Today, for all intents and purposes:
A pandemic is defined as “an epidemic occurring over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries, and usually affecting a large number of people” (Ibid., 2014).
Pandemics are, therefore, identified by their geographic scale rather than the severity of illness. For example, in contrast to annual seasonal influenza epidemics, pandemic influenza is defined as “when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity” (WHO 2010).
Pandemics typically emerge from social conditions at the time. The COVID-19 virus was said to have developed in a market in China where monkeys were kept in unsanitary conditions in cages. The more our societies evolve, the more we learn about how diseases and viruses spread. For example, in the industrial revolution people began to travel more broadly, on ships and locomotives. Cholera appeared in 1831, moving from Asia to Europe through travel and trade. Epidemiologists developed vaccines and diagnostic tests. Still seen as an “epidemic”, many diseases existed before they were referred to as pandemics. After the global spread of influenza in 1889, the term pandemic seemed to enter into the public lexicon and was well-used by 1918 (Porta, 2018).
There are different theories about when illness became used as a form of germ warfare. Certainly, Indigenous communities and historians of colonial violence in Canada and the U.S. have documented evidence of small-pox infested blankets being distributed, knowingly, to Indigenous peoples to hasten their extermination. It is documented that Sir Jeffrey Amherst, after whom a Montreal street is named, contrived to exploit the small pox epidemic for the killing of Native peoples. He is quoted as saying:
Could it not be contrived to send the small pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must, on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them (Kiger, 2019).
In Montreal, activists recently successfully advocated for the name change so that Amherst and his violence are not celebrated. In the context of present-day movements (Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Truth and Reconciliation, anti-racist initiatives, etc.), removing statues of genocideurs is one way to create belonging for non-European populations. Scholars have documented that this is not the first time this genocidal strategy was used by colonists against Indigenous peoples (Carriere & Richardson, 2013; Chomsky, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c; 2014a, 2013a, 2013b, 2011; Churchill, 1992; Hatch & Price, 2008; Jacobs, 2000; Kiger, 2019, Wall Kimmerer, 2013). While this is not the first example of the use of germ warfare on the planet, it is predictable that 21st century states may, or already have, considered the exploitation of viruses and diseases for the purposes of war and “enemy population destruction.” This is what we need to address and prevent.
This chapter explores a number of possible initiatives to ensure that present-day and future nation-states do not have this power. This chapter was written with the intent of understanding the risks of the spreading coronavirus as well as preventing the use of biological weapons becoming a viable option for non-democratic states, or even in so-called democratic states where leaders may use such strategies against what Chomsky called “the internal enemy” (Herman & Chomsky, 2008). Today, some social commentators believe that President D. Trump has used the COVID-19 pandemic for the purposes of hegemony and social engineering (BBC News, 2020; Lerner, 2006, 2009, 1996; Serwer, 2020; Vishwaneth, 2020). Perhaps pointing to current U.S. President Donald J. Trump for examples of both inaction and incompetent action is not representative of the deliberations of most world leaders. This opportunistic “neglect” or failure to act for the care of humans during COVID-19 could include not acting to support parents during home seclusion as well as dealing with the increased rates of violence against women (Roesch et al, 2020). Where woman are harmed, their male counterparts accrue more power. Neglect and inaction can embolden those who would abuse power (Chomsky, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c). However, if one may list three main types of responses to COVID-19 at this time, they could be listed as competent/informed action (following recommendations of medical doctors, scientists and public health officers), incompetent or ill-advised action (inventing non-sensical solutions) and thirdly, inaction/neglect. One might say that the American president himself fits in categories two and three.
Although President Trump may have competent medical officers making suggestions to the public that have been helpful for population safety, he has been shown to stifle or even dismiss these experts when they do not work within his personal agenda. Helpful recommendations thus far have shown to be things like washing hands for a particular length of time (e.g. singing “Happy Birthday” twice through), wearing masks, physical distancing (e.g. 2m), avoiding large gatherings and staying home whenever possible. In terms of incompetent or ill-advised action, the Intercept documents President Trump’s statement that he had no idea who disbanded his pandemic response team or even that it had been disbanded (Mackey, 2020). He also provided the American public with inaccurate information regarding protecting one’s self from the coronavirus, advising them to inject disinfectant or to irradiate themselves with ultraviolet light. This statement was corrected by one of Trump’s doctors at the briefing (Ibid, 2020). Heat was also proposed by Trump as a possible preventative. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of making public recommendations haphazardly and based on no evidence, research or testing is the fact that many of his followers and supporters accept his ill-informed perspectives as some sort of truth. At the same time, refusing to model mask-wearing as well as implying that wearing a mask is unmasculine has fueled a large number of citizens across the U.S. who refuse to wear masks in public and attend rallies in opposition to this directive (Beer, 2020). Forbes magazine reports:
As of Thursday morning [July 16], more than 3.5 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 137,000 have died, and nearly all health experts agree that face coverings are essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19, yet some Americans are gathering to loudly proclaim that they will not be forced to wear a mask (Ibid, 2020)
Ironically, Statistica magazine, in 2019, reported that the U.S. was the country the most prepared for a pandemic, followed by the UK, the Netherlands and then China (McCarthy, 2019). By April 27, 2020, Nature magazine presented that Hong Kong and South Korea did relatively well at keeping their death count low. Austria and Germany have also done better than many of their European neighbours (e.g. Spain, Italy, France) (Gibney, 2020). It has become clear that the American approach has been a disaster, with the death count as of July 22, 2020 is 144,186 deaths, reporting 3,989,781 cases (MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle, July 22, 2020). In terms of neglect, inattention to developing testing sites, affordable and accessible medical care and poverty- relief tends to result in increased contamination and death. Inaction on social and health issues constitutes a form of neglect resulting in high death rates. Social inequity creates a breeding ground for poor and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) as well as the aged and disabled to be disproportionately affected and experience higher death rates in their communities than those living with more wealth and privilege (Chomsky, 2017, 2014, 2013a, 2013b).
Social and spiritual activist Rabbi Michael Lerner refers to the power of past and present-day nation states as the “power and domination model” (2019, 2006). This model is characterized by a lack of real democracy, inequality towards women and minorities, the presence of oligarchs, patriarchy, consumer growth-capitalism which puts profit before human lives. Rabbi Lerner spoke in great detail about shifting the paradigm away from the power and domination ways of using violence, threat and intimidation that is what nations have acted out, in their dealings across the planet (2006). Lerner advocates for social and ecological care, to develop societies which are fair and just, both in the U.S. and globally. One of the negative aspects of the “neglect” approach is that the coronavirus (and other viruses) can be exploited to cause extreme harm and death to civilian populations. Singer Ani di Franco reminds us that ‘every tool is a weapon if you hold it right” (di Franco, nd). This is what social movements and activists are trying to prevent.
Social Change Towards Fairness, Justice, Equity and Human Well-Being
In terms of social policy and attitudinal change, societies must move beyond this political model, once referred to as the “Ancient Habit Pattern” (e.g. kill or be killed) (Jackins, 1987). In addition to Noam Chomsky’s discourse on hegemony (2017, 2014), Italian social theorist Antonio Gramsci (1961) introduced the concept, describing it as a state process for consolidating power and influencing the public to “buy in” to the model (e.g. through the manipulation of media and the supplying of consumer goods as pacification and distraction). His work describes how the state and the ruling capitalist class use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies (1971).
As a peace activist and early-childhood parent-support educator, I have been producing projects for the past forty years, to advance a more just, more peaceful world. This has included involvement with NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) and the work of Cherie Brown (1996, 1992) on prejudice reduction and creating communities which respect diversity and inclusion. My activism has been oriented towards creating “policies of generosity” with a view to supporting and enhancing a global-trans-national shared desire for states to approach its citizenry with generosity, love, caring and true security, globally. Here we need to emphasize “global,” for the “international,” nation to nation” convention signatories’ approach to halt biological weapons are typically elitist and exclusive bodies (i.e. the U.S. for instance organizes its coalition partners from within the G7 or the G20, or among NATO members or between the hegemonic super powers, e.g. the U.S. and Russia).
In terms of true global safety, it is now imperative that we, as global societies, move to secure “global, binding agreements” which could safeguard humankind and other animal life forms against state-violence in the form of germ warfare. Inspired by a number of activists and social theorists (e.g. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Cornel West, Medea Benjamin, Gloria Steinem, Sherri Brown). I align my thinking with Rabbi Michael Lerner who states that “the moment is now to do what is right, not what is “realistic.” Here, he is referring to helping populations heal from the past, from the traumas of genocide and war, and creating cohesive societies built on mutual care and mutual respect. Structurally, this means breaking down older structures of domination and becoming more truly democratic and levelling the social inequities that keep large sections of the population oppressed.
In the midst of movements such as Black Lives Matter, “Me Too”, Idle No More, Indigenous and Anti-Pipeline protests, and the newer “Defund the Police” initiative, we are witnessing the collapse of systems around us. Some see this as an invitation to envision a new society and structures which truly improve the lives of humans, alongside all beings, on the planet. We can aim for wholeness and integrate solutions for a number of issues into a new paradigm – climate change, shared national wealth/poverty elimination, integral food sourcing, non-destructive resourcing replacing damaging mining practices. These reforms and renewed policies must be enacted at systemic and structural levels.
These initiatives are not new in the United States. In fact, virtually every society is composed of some individuals who resist state oppression and have been trying to create a fair and just society, in spite of the ruling power structures. (e.g. powerful global examples include Czech poet Vaclav Havel becoming the president of the Czech Republic; African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela being released from prison to become South Africa’s first Black president: Finland’s Sanna Marin). The field of community psychology in the US has been advocating for human well-being as connected to social justice. The 1965 Swampscott conference in the U.S. marked the beginning of a movement within the field of psychology to focus on community well-being through just social policy and movements towards equity and anti-black racism, represented in a book “How To Build Community.”
At the 1965 Swampscott Conference in the US, the term “community
psychology” was first used, and it signaled new roles and opportunities
for psychologists by extending the reach of services to those who had
been under-represented, focusing on prevention rather than just treatment of psychological problems, and by actively involving community members in the change process (Bennett et al, 1966).
The community psychology approach to well-being was based on themes of prevention, social justice and ecological understandings of people within their environments. It was a strengths-based model that challenged the medical model approach to (individualized) psychology. A more recent community psychology text bears the subtitle “Becoming an Agent of Change” (Jason et al., 2019).
My activist work, integrating social policy and principles of human development and early childhood psychology, centers around promoting “policies of generosity” (Lerner, 2019, 2006, 1996). This approach to community life, involves a spiritually-inspired focus of “opening the heart” to the absolute amazement of what it is to be alive on a remarkable planet, a sentiment that Michael Lerner refers to as “radical amazement.” It means embodying the reality that human survival relies on the survival of Earth as well as the many non-human species which sustain Earth (Jacobs, 2000; Wall Kimmerer, 2013).
In Tikkun Magazine, the journal of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (both the magazine’s founder and editor and NSP’s co-founder and international chair are Rabbi Michael Lerner), the mission statement reads:
Tikkun Magazine uplifts Jewish, interfaith, and secular prophetic voices of hope that contribute to universal liberation. A catalyst for long-term social change we empower people and communities to heal the world by embracing revolutionary love, compassion, and empathy. We promote a caring society that protects the life support system of the planet and celebrates the Earth and the universe with awe and radical amazement. (www.tikkun.org)
Indigenous scholars share similar teachings from the perspective of a holistic, Indigenous Worldview. Métis academic and therapist Catherine Richardson, in her chapter “Land is life” (2020), writes:
Indigenous teachings tell us, generally, that personal responsibility is part of land-care and Earth-care (Cajete, 2000; Carriere & Richardson, 2013; Kimmerer, 2013). For sure, we need confront and challenge the corporate, colonial, neo-liberal, capitalist destructive practices, but maybe they will crash all on their own.
Adapting a more holistic approach to life, living and social care means that we will respond to challenges on the levels of the emotional, physical, spiritual as well as social levels. This holism will influence our financial decisions and life choices. When we demonstrate care for others as for our own families, we are drawn towards offering care instead of harm.
Global Rather Than International
Globally, it is imperative that nations come together to work within international structures (that understand a “global imperative,”) such as the United Nations, or multi-lateral organizations (such as the World Health Organization,) to develop conventions on biological weapons. This could also mean structuring ways to include voices from the grass roots and peace movement. For example, during the cold war, the global anti-nuclear movement prompted attention to alternative, non-militaristic/peace-oriented voices within structures of non-nuclear proliferation. This means further developing and engaging the protocols between scientists, public health officials, and peace and justice informed political actors. Certainly, where possible, building on the protocols that have successfully modeled multi-lateral international, global potential is appropriate (Ajeli et al., 2018). However, it is imperative that we move past the Geneva Protocol and the U.N. Biological Weapons Convention (BWC-UNODA), as well as the August 2019 agreement between 183 nation states that is not fully binding. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_Weapons_Convention).
We need to ensure that more voices are invited to the table and heard, not just those of the major “superpowers.” It is also crucial that we find ways that anti-germ warfare protocols are binding, in a world that is shaken to its depths by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also need to ensure an appropriate balance of democratic approaches and rights of citizens and measures intended to eliminate pandemics. In addition to preventing the use of any virus as “germ warfare”, we must equally attend to protecting the best interests of citizens and communities against state tyranny.
Marked by the coronavirus pandemic, by crumbling systems and by demands for democratic social change and ethical leadership, this moment in history is ripe for the re-humanization of the social world. In fact, moving beyond mere human care to Earth and non-human species care, is crucial for planetary survival. One step that is crucial for planetary well-being is to create global conventions to prevent biological “weapons” and the use of viruses as weapons of war. Through binding global agreements, involving multiple voices (governmental, non-governmental and citizens/grass roots organizations), we need to put an end to all potentially lethal viral and biologically hazardous (with pandemic potential) research. Where research is curative, use of mathematical and computer modeling, not the live biological agents that are potentially lethal, with pandemic potential. Human survival can be advanced through the movement of all societies, starting with our own, towards “policies of generosity” and human/ecological care. We can do “what is right, not that which is realistic” (Lerner, 1996).
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