Coronavirus Lockdown Menu

Part of HomeBar: Food and Drink Tips to Survive Social Distancing.

Two days ago, Governor Newsom issued a “stay-at-home” order to combat the COVID 19 epidemic here in California. Similar orders have been issued in Illinois, New York and Connecticut and will likely come to other states soon.

These orders have forced all “non-essential” businesses, including dine-in restaurants and bars, to close.

While grocery stores are exempt, their supply chains are squeezed to the limit on many staple foodstuffs. Plus, crowded grocery stores are great places to get infected.

As the outbreak worsens over the next few months, I will try to avoid grocery shopping as much as possible.

To that extent, I have come up with a weekly menus to ensure the food in my pantry lasts for about three months.

I conducted an inventory of my fridge, freezer and pantry last Sunday, after I completed my final round of grocery shopping. I revised the inventory earlier today to account for some deliveries my family received this week. The following food items were in abundant supply:

  • Proteins
    • 10 (14 oz) Tofu blocks
    • 10 (15 oz) cans of Kidney Beans
    • 10 (15 oz) cans of Black Beans
    • 5 lbs of Chuck Meat
    • 3 (14 oz) “meatless” soy meat
    • Four packages of deli-style sliced Turkey (9 slices per package)
    • Four cartons of (12) eggs
    • 5 cans (5 oz), tuna
    • 5 cans (5 oz), salmon
  • Starches
    • 9 (1 lb) boxes of pasta
    • 1 1/2 (2 lb) bags of basmati rice
    • 1/2 (10 lb) bag of Botan short-grained rice
    • 3 (8 oz) boxes of couscous
    • 1 1/2 (1 lb) bags of quinoa
    • 17 whole Sweet potatoes (12-13 lbs)
    • 12 Yukon Gold Potatoes
    • 3 large Russet Potatoes
    • 2 packages of tortillas (1 large,1 medium)
  • Vegetables
    • 12 (16 to 24 oz) bags of frozen vegetables
    • 17 (15 oz) cans of canned vegetables
  • Other:
    • Cereal and Yogurt
    • About 10 packages of Cheese: 2 large (32 oz), 1 medium (16 oz) and the rest small (8 oz)
    • Sauces:
      • 2 pasta sauces
      • 2 Salsas (about 15 servings each)
      • 2.5 cans of coconut milk
      • 1 Tikka Masala Sauce
      • 1 Soy Sauce
    • Spices
    • Baking essentials (e.g. flour, butter, sugar)
    • 7 frozen meals
Cans in my kitchen:)

I will be feeding my mother and myself with these staples.

Based on personal experience, my supplies of black beans, kidney beans, meatless meat, and tofu, will each give me 10 main courses.

The pasta supports more than 10 meals (1 box=1.5 to 2 meals, so about 15 to 20 meals), and the rice supports a little less (One 2 pound bag of basmati rice yields about 4 cups or 6 meals give or take. It looks that there is about 1 meal worth in the partially-open basmati bag and three meals worth in the short-grain rice container). The couscous and quinoa (about 5 to 6 meals each) extend the number of side dishes I can cook. The copious potatoes can feature in both side dishes and main courses.

As for vegetables, a 16-ounce bag of frozen peas can currently complement as many as 10 meals, so I might be able to make ’em last me a year.

Accordingly, I can forego shopping/deliveries for 10 weeks by sticking to the following menu.

  • Monday
    • Lunch: Open-faced tuna, salmon or turkey/chicken (2 slices) melt sandwich
    • Pasta with tomato or cream sauce, and vegetables
  • Tuesday
    • Lunch: Open-faced fish/turkey melt (2 slices) or pan-fried vegetables+”meatless meat” with left-over pasta
    • Dinner: Kidney Bean/vegetable stew with quinoa/couscous/rice* or sweet potatoes (Start with former and move on to latter as supplies dwindle)
  • Wednesday:
    • Lunch: Black Bean Patties for hump day!
    • Dinner: Leftover stew (tends to make more food) with a new side (quinoa, couscous, rice or potato)
  • Thursday:
    • Lunch: Second day of black bean patties.
    • Dinner: Vegetable Stew/Curry with either Tofu or Potato (Tikka Masala Sauce/Spices and Coconut Milk or Salsa: make enough for two)
  • Friday
    • Lunch: Treat yourself! Toaster oven pizza, frozen meal
    • Dinner: Round 2 on Thursday’s dinner
  • Saturday
    • Lunch: Weekend lunches are kinda TBD. Might push out breakfasts later to reduce consumption (bread slice with peanut butter+cereal+yogurt)
    • Dinner: Meatless Meat Quesadillas (1 large tortilla or 2 medium tortillas per person) with rice/potato as side.
  • Sunday
    • Lunch: See above
    • Dinner: Pasta (same options as Monday)

For weekday breakfasts, I’m sticking to yogurt (have about 6 weeks supply right now) and cereal (1 year’s supply).

I haven’t started the menu yet (I had takeout earlier this week, with leftovers lasting a few days). I will likely change up the days on which I cook particular dishes (e.g. black bean patties earlier in the week and deli meat later), based on my work schedule, how I’m feeling, etc. But I intend to primarily revolve among the set of dishes laid out above.

I will keep everyone posted on how it goes.

How are you planning to conserve food throughout the COVID 19 lockdowns?

Share your menu/recipe suggestions below!

*My mother doesn’t eat quinoa, so I would have to make a second side to accompany the main course.

Lockdown Reads

With the country on shutdown for the next few weeks or more, this blog is shifting gears a bit. I am going to publish two series of articles (in weekly episodic installments). The first, Viral Nation, discusses how our country and social norms got us into this clusterf*#k (re: pandemic), and what we can learn for dealing with future crises. The second, HomeBar, will introduce drinks you can make (with ingredients easily available!) while locked up at home. Stay tuned for new articles:)

And remember. At Entrepot, no topic is off the table (provide I have the time and means to research).

So….let me know if you have any questions or ideas!

Universal Basic Income to the Rescue?

One of the more memorable aspects of this Democratic presdential primary cycle was Andrew Yang’s championing of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The idea that every adult in the US should receive a 1,000$ a month check from the government drew a cult-like following to the candidate.

The UBI, as a permanent mechanism, has gained both admiration and criticism from persons across the political spectrum. 

I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on the use of UBI as a broad social welfare mechanism (though I would consider myself on the “Yes” side). But in the public health emergency we are currently experiencing, a check from the government with no strings attached is essential for the health and welfare of the nation. 

Restaurants closed in Rome due to COVID 19 Outbreak. Source SkyNews

As “social distancing” measures become more widespread, many companies and governments will likely have to close their facilities. 

While some professional jobs (e.g. law, government) can be conducted remotely-to a certain extent-, many restaurant, retail and service jobs cannot. Already, some Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley have had to close doors because of decreased foot traffic driven by fears of the virus. Once more restaurants begin to follow suit, an untold number of cooks, busboys and other staff will be left jobless. 

Many small business owners will have to close with losses, with no quick, easy route to recoup them (you can’t open another store or restaurant when people aren’t going anywhere). 

Even professional firms may eventually have to close doors if clientele slow for a long time.

The sad irony is that many workers’ primary source of revenue will dry up just when their medical expenses start to mount.

Taking a step back, this could have happened at any time. By this I don’t mean coronavirus, specifically, but a shock to the economy caused by a freak disaster be it a wildfire, hurricane, earthquake or illness. 

Our country should have an rainy-day fund, by which citizens contribute revenue in “good times” to ensure their well-being in the “bad”.

Every year, we would pay slightly more in taxes (with the amount varying based on income) to contribute money to the fund. When an emergency strikes, the money would be returned to the persons affected in monthly deposits, sufficient for them to live decently. Personally, I think the amount returned should start off higher than what UBI proposals call for (at 3,000$ a month: which is equal to the living wage in a high-cost state like CA)-for those in the lowest income bracket-and decrease inversely to the income bracket and assets of the recipient. 

Call it Emergency Relief (ER).

ER would relieve Americans of the added burden of economic anxiety (when crises occur). It would allow American workers and employers to take all steps necessary to combat crises. And it would provide a literal safety net, ensuring that the level of protection one receives in emergencies and disasters does not depend on his or her income. 

Democracy in a Time of Crisis

The Chinese government’s draconian response to the coronavirus outbreak begs a question. Do authoritarian regimes have an advantage, relative to democracies, in responding to crises?

A brief refresher on democracy. A form of government “in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)   

A brief refresher on the Coronavirus quarantine. Following the Coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government imposed a quarantine that severely restricts travel into and out of an area with a population the size of California. 

Chinese Police with Face Masks. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In an interview with Scientific American, NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan upheld the measure as necessary for containing the spread of the disease. In addition, he noted the legal hurdles that might prevent such a measure in the United States. 

“But quarantining an entire large city—or multiple cities—is not an approach that would work in many other places. You’re not going to quarantine the city of New York, ever,” Caplan argues, noting that U.S. authorities could not even effectively enforce a quarantine imposed on one nurse who returned to the country after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone in 2014. “ 

The last sentence refers to the quarantine attempted on Kari Hickox. Upon her return to the states from West Africa, where she had treated Ebola patients, Hickox was quarantined for three days in New Jersey before being permitted to return to Maine. The Maine authorities tried to extend Hickox’ quarantine but Hickox took legal action and won.  

(Hickox was neither infected with Ebola nor showed any symptoms).

There aren’t many other recent examples of an industrialized democracy dealing with a pandemic (though the US imposed a fair number of quarantines in the 19th-century: more on this later). 

However, democratic systems have stumbled in confronting the multitude of crises currently facing humanity. 

Take climate change. In the United States, older, more conservative constituencies support politicians who deny its very existence despite the numerous signs that it is indeed happening.

Even lefties in the US and Europe who claim to care about climate change are loath to take measures to restrict vehicle travel (e.g. ending parking minimums, raising gas taxes) that would actually make a dent in emissions. 

Contentious Hearing on a Road Diet in Los Angeles. “Road Diets”, which reallocate road space from cars to transit and non-motorized travel, have faced fierce opposition on Los Angeles’ west side. Source: Argonaut

What’s happening here? 

In a government where politicians are responsive to the people, prudent action can be hampered by imperfect information, groupthink (i.e. voting based on social identity rather than substantive issues), and lack of political knowledge. Differing levels of political participation not only take the “democratic” out of democracy (as practiced) but allow well-connected minorities to hamper actions that would benefit the populace at large.

And yet, China’s response to the Coronavirus shows that authoritarian systems, in all likelihood, do a worse job of handling crises.

In the first days of the outbreak, the Wuhan provincial government dragged its feet, going so far as to threaten a doctor who reported the first cases of the virus. 

Such misinformation may reflect authoritarian governments’ prioritization of (the facade of) stability over public welfare. They can solidify legitimacy this way (and always have a golden escape parachute in case things get out of control).

In fact, the Chinese government is already sending people back to work, despite acknowledging that the virus is still an issue.

Furthermore, the quarantine may not actually have been the most effective measure. By concentrating persons (both healthy and sick) in a disease-ridden area, it could end up increasing the infection rate in these areas. Restrictions on the flow of goods into and out of quarantine areas create shortages in medicines those infected desperately need. Democratic oversight on this policy would have probably warranted consideration of these issues.

Point being, democracies have stronger incentives and improved feed-back mechanisms for protecting public well-being in times of crisis. How can democracies respond to voters without being beholden to voters’ imperfections, or to the narrow interests of a loud minority?

I wonder how improving the spread of knowledge from expert sources can better inform voters (something social media could aid, if willing to referee). Bringing more people into the democratic process dampens interest group politics, if the focus is on achieving outcomes rather than fighting battles.

Women’s March, January 2017.

Thoughts?

Why is Flirting a Man’s Job?

February 15 brings a sigh of relief:) For singles of all genders, Valentine’s Day can be a cause for anxiety. 

Source: Times of India

Since I have borderline Asperger’s symptoms and tend to miss indirect and non-verbal cues, the pressure I feel to flirt in February can jitter my nerves. I have a feeling that many other men feel the same.

Source: Reddit. 

Why is it that, in the era of #metoo, straight guys are expected to pursue girls and not the other way around? 

Evolutionary psychologists would argue that it is “natural” for a woman to choose the partner because she’ll end up having to carry his baby for nine months.  

And yet, being the smart apes we are, our personality and “character” traits likely have as much to do with social conditioning as with evolutionary hard-wiring. 

Source: Imgflip Meme Generator

Indeed, a study conducted ten years ago found that when women were given the initiative to approach men as part of a speed dating experiment, they were as assertive as men who were told to approach women.

I can’t speak for the experience of women, so I won’t attempt any answers. The speed dating experiment article noted that the large size of women’s accessories makes it harder for women to be mobile at speed dating events. I wonder what role slut-shaming (by stigmatizing female sexual expression) and women’s safety concerns (e.g. the risk of being a victim of assault/ harassment) play?

Regardless, I think there are some major problems (based on my experience talking with other guys about the subject) with the expectation that men should initiate relationships.

It makes flirting and courting stressful for guys like myself, who fall on the spectrum or have other issues that impede social interaction. Male mental health is an often overlooked subject: The role flirting plays in this should be taken seriously.

I also feel that it reinforces some toxic male behaviors.

Source: FairyGodBoss

The belief that men’s “success” in dating depends on how strongly they pursue a partner can lead men to coerce women into sex.

The pressure for men to be witty and interesting when flirting encourages patronizing displays of expertise (i.e. “man-splaining”). 

In a recent study of sexuality in young men, Psychologist Peggy Orenstein expressed shock at finding that  “It was still all about stoicism, sexual conquest, dominance, aggression…. athleticism, (and) wealth.” All of these characteristics are–to one degree or another–seen as enhancing men’s ability to “win over” attractive women. 

Readers, do you agree with my perspective?

What has your experience with flirting as a cis/trans guy/girl been like?

Leave a comment below!

De-Regulation or Land Reform?

The Rent is too damn high in LA! Median Rent last year for a one-bedroom apartment last year clocked in at $1,369 a month or $16,428 a year!

For low-income Angelenos (annual income with minimum wage is about $24,000), the situation is dire. High rents are pushing many out of their homes and onto the streets or out of the region altogether.

Many planners have long argued that the problem is one of bad policy. LA has high rents because it doesn’t permit too much new housing, causing housing production in the city to lag far behind the growth in housing demand.

And yet, two recent bills by the California State Senate that would have loosened zoning regulations for housing development around transit lines (where new housing would have the least impact on traffic and the most benefit for poor people), were opposed by many pro-tenant and pro-equity groups, a factor contributing to their failure.

SB 50 Up-Zoning. Source: Embarcadero Institute.

Curbed LA’s Alissa Walker explained why:

Westwood Boulevard is the address of several major LA destinations, including UCLA’s campus of 45,000 students and 42,000 employees, less than one mile to the north. Four blocks away is a dead mall leased by Google, which is busily turning it into a 600,000-square-foot office complex. But here, where Westwood crosses the tracks of a rail system that carries more than 300,000 people a day, it’s zoned for single-family homes. In fact, in the surrounding neighborhood, many of the 1940s-era houses, valued at an average of $1.4 million, according to Redfin, are being demolished so people in the majority-white, majority-homeowner neighborhood can build even bigger single-family homes.

In July 2018, LA’s City Council approved the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan, which would have allowed construction of taller, multifamily residential buildings along major streets within a half-mile of five E Line stations, including this one. Estimates showed that between 4,400 and 6,000 new housing units could be added across the entire plan area by 2035. But in October 2018, a group that often litigates over density-related issues sued the city for the plan, arguing that more housing would lead to increased traffic. Over a year later, not a single unit has been built.

It’s quite a different scene when you exit the train in my neighborhood, which is across town via the B Line (formerly the Red Line). On busy six-lane Vermont Avenue, a street lined with six-story buildings houses some of the highest percentages of transit-dependent riders in the city. Across the street from the station is a shuttered car dealership where a developer has proposed a large mixed-use apartment building. Several other new mid-rise apartment buildings have gone up within a few blocks of the station, including a supportive housing project for formerly homeless residents, with a second one proposed nearby.

Single-family homes get torn down here, too, but not usually by homeowners. It’s more often by developers who bought the homes with cash. Sometimes they replace them with rental apartments. But more and more, those developers are building condos that are more expensive to buy than the home they demolished. 

In other words, LA’s zoning system operates as a form of Social Apartheid. It empowers wealthy white homeowners to metaphorically wall off their communities from any type of affordable housing (driving up costs across the city as a whole).

Simultaneously, it funnels new market-rate, multi-family development into low-income neighborhoods of color, raising property values and displacing long-time residents.

Urban Planners need to tackle this power structure in order to build more affordable housing where it is needed.

Westwood: A Commercial Center surrounded by forest estates…

Fighting a power apparatus that supports elite landowners requires a more radical policy approach, one that redistributes development rather than de-regulating it.

Land use policies should at least attempt to equalize housing development, so that affluent neighborhoods densify at a comparable rate to low-income neighborhoods with similar levels of job density and transit access.

The state of California’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) provides one potential policy model. The RHNA imposes housing-development targets for cities and regions across the state (the state sets the targets for regions, and regional planning organizations then determine the target for cities). These targets vary according to the region or city’s perceived need for affordable housing (although many question the targets’ effectiveness).

A proposed Maryland law, the (not-so-modestly titled) Modest Home Choices Act of 2020 offers another example. The law up-zones single-family neighborhoods across the state (to accommodate duplexes and other forms of multi-family housing), so long as they’re located either in “high opportunity” census tracts (tracts with twice the regional median income) or in jobs-rich, transit-accessible census tracts with median income equal to or greater than the regional median-income.

Regardless of the policy, shifting multi-family housing development towards affluent neighborhoods will spare low-income neighborhoods the burden of housing market variability. Densification will also create more affordable housing options in affluent neighborhoods. Opening up these neighborhoods’ housing markets to low-income renters will undo the legacy of decades of race- and class-based “redlining”.


Class-conscious land use policy may sound like something from outer space.

But it is really just a new iteration of one of the oldest welfare policies, land reform.

Mural Depicting Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas’ 1937 Land Reform Legislation

From Tsarist Russia to post-revolutionary Mexico to Post-World War II Japan, policies that redistribute the landholdings of a privileged elite to the masses have played an important role in (partial) democratization and economic development.

Rather than expropriating the property of the wealthy, 21st-century “zoning” land reform will re-appropriate vacant parcels in wealthy neighborhoods, transitioning these parcels towards uses that accommodate a more diverse mix of people and uses.

In an age of Plutocracy and Climate Change, the “new” land reform will reduce inequity and encourage sustainability. By reversing decades of segregation, it will politically empower the poor.

More importantly, in the current (left- and right-) populist moment, the mantra of “land reform” will galvanize the masses.

By winning support from a broad coalition (e.g. renters, progressive activists, construction workers, developers), “land reform” policies are more likely to become law than the milquetoast “zoning changes” proposed by the SB 50 crowd.

Power to the People.

The Problem with Marriage Story

One of the front runners in tonight’s academy awards is Marriage Story. Having watched Marriage Story on the weekend of its Netflix release, I feel the award is justified but at the same time, reveals a lot of what is wrong with the culture of Hollywood movie-making. 

Marriage Story. Source: Netflix.

I was raised by divorced parents, so Marriage Story resonates with me strongly. I appreciate the films emotional realism (the nuanced expressions of the characters making their outbursts all the more vivid and powerful), its moral ambiguity (the story never being that simple) and deft portrayal of the intricate emotional web of romance. By the end of the movie, my face was wet with tears. 

And yet, something about the characters’ lives is just a bit too good to be real. The repeated jaunts from coast to coast. Nicole’s (Johanssen’s Character’s) career as a Hollywood B-list actress, with a scandalous reputation. Nicole and Charlie’s effortless coasting through the most gilded hillside and beachfront neighborhoods of Los Angeles, as if money is never an actual issue. 

“In LA, there is space,” everyone tells Charlie. On what planet are these living? LA has one of the lowest homeownership rates in the country. 

The root of the issue with Marriage Story is a little thing called representation.

Its not just about race (as popularly perceived) but about class and geography. By confining its gaze to a privileged creative perspective, Marriage Story, like many other Hollywood movies loses its power and its appeal.

The Racist Hysteria over Chinese “Wet” Markets

Update (April 13, 2020): Since I wrote this article back in January, COVID-19 has spread to every corner of the globe. It has killed more than 100,000 people and sickened millions, while tanking the global economy. While most of the public’s attention has shifted away from the virus’s origin story, many of the dynamics I highlight in my article still hold true:

  1. We still don’t have definitive proof that the virus originated in the Huanan Seafood “Wet” Market. It most likely came from bats, but exactly how and when it spread to humans is still unclear.
  2. The belief that the pandemic started due to the butchering or consumption of “exotic” animals at a Wet Market, fuels anti-asian hate crimes.
  3. China is permanently banning the illegal wildlife trade (much of which occurs outside of a typical wet market). However, eliminating wet markets themselves would upend traditional food ways (providing the primary means of selling food for rural residents). In regards to the wildlife ban, there could be issues with compensating farmers and effectively enforcing the ban. Without either of these, the law foster the proliferation of more dangerous underground activity.
  4. It is also true that Chinese Medicine corporations and the Chinese Forestry Department provide institutional support for the wildlife trade. Thus the breeding and trading of wildlife exceeds the issue of wet markets and consumption of certain species.
  5. The trading and breeding of multiple species of wildlife does carry grave public health risks, which I don’t intend to downplay here.
  6. Anthony Bourdain appreciated the energy and dynamism of wet markets. I wish he were still around to educate the public.

The coronavirus outbreak is exposing America’s deep-rooted underbelly of anti-Asian racism. From teasing on the playground to stigmatization at the shopping mall, (many) Americans’ reaction to the outbreak reveals the extent to which they conceive of Chinese, like myself, as a monolith-devoid of individual humanity. 

Perhaps the most disgraceful instance of racial hysterics has been the media’s portrayal of China’s live-animal (or “wet”) markets as an incubator of disease.

In China, a “wet market” denotes an ad hoc market where fresh meat and produce, rather than “dry” packaged goods, are sold. Because of the Chinese preference for freshly-slaughtered meat, animals are often displayed alive and butchered upon purchase.

Chickens for sale at a market in Xining, China. Source: Flickr (Labeled for reuse).

Think of them like a cross between a farmer’s market and a petting zoo.

The coronavirus outbreak may have originated in the Huanan Seafood Market, a wet market in Wuhan. Since the outbreak, the American mass media have ominously portrayed these markets as alien and unsanitary.

A New York Times Article depicts China’s “Omnivorous Markets” (as if their customers were animal rather than human!) as purveyors of “unusual fare, including live snakes, turtles and cicadas, guinea pigs, bamboo rats…” The article notes that many blame the markets’ “culinary adventurism” for the epidemic.

Bloomberg News’ Headline demonizes wet markets as a “Breeding Ground” for viruses. The body text of the article highlights the fact that “shoppers mingle in narrow spaces with everything from live poultry to snakes” in the markets as “a key reason” for their culpability in spreading disease.

The New York Post‘s Paula Froelich does not even mince words in her writing. These “filthy markets” boast a “fetid stench,” she writes (based on experiences in unnamed third-world locations), akin to “the sweet and nauseating smell of death.”

Sensational headline, “exotic” imagery

The supposedly unsavory character of the wet markets leads Froelich to assert what the other authors imply: that the wet markets are a public health risk and should, therefore, be shut down for good. 

Although this argument sounds logical on the surface, the lurid portrayal on which it relies draws on racially-motivated stereotypes about Chinese cuisine. 

During the 19th-century, Chinese immigrants to America (who began arriving in the country during the California Gold Rush) encountered vicious discrimination from the country’s White majority. One area in which prejudice manifested was food

This 19th-century poster shows Uncle Sam as a “Magic Washer”, sanitizing America by kicking out the “Dirty Chinaman”

White citizens decried the Chinatowns of western cities as “nuisances” because of the perceived “stench” emanating from their kitchens. White politicians regarded Chinese “coolies” as inferior based on their preference for rice over beef. And white newspapers obsessed over Chinese consumption of “unusual” animals like rats. 

Although times have changed and sushi, larb and dim sum can now command Michelin stars, questions Asian-Americans receive about eating “dog” and stigmas around the smell of kimchi show that the “othering” of Asian food (and people) is very real. Sub-consciously or not, the media’s portrayal of live animal markets as an incubator for pandemics plays into this.

Moreover, the media’s blame of wet markets for the Coronavirus epidemic grossly oversimplifies the story. It is true that the Coronavirus likely originated in bats and, therefore, infected humans via an animal carrier. However, scientists have not affirmatively established the Huanan market as the site of the disease’s transmission. A study in the esteemed Lancet medical journal found that thirteen of the 41 initial Coronavirus cases were not linked to the market.

____________________________________

Suppose, however, that China’s wet markets do transmit the disease? Should we accept the media’s premise that the Chinese government should shut down the markets? 

To me, it seems cynical at best to promote a crackdown on mom-and-pop enterprises by an authoritarian regime not hesitant to employ brutality. Many of the wild animal sales in “wet markets” sustain small farmers who would otherwise be decimated by big agribusiness. 

Furthermore, a ban on wet markets or the sale of wild animals in China may prove ineffective. When the Chinese government banned the sale of certain wildlife following the SARS epidemic in 2002, trade in the outlawed specimens migrated to the black market. Unregulated and invisible to health authorities, black market operations are less likely to follow healthy or sustainable practices.

Finally, suppose a ban on “wet” markets is effective. The Chinese have switched from shopping for freshly-slaughtered (domesticated and wild) animals at a local “wet” market to buying packaged meats, from the standard cow-pig-chicken trifecta of domesticated animals, at Walmart or Costco. 

Industrial Poultry Slaughterhouse in Florida (Source: Wikimedia)

In this future scenario, meat has to be trucked for a longer distance or flown in, greatly increasing the greenhouse gas emissions from food transport. Likewise, the industrial farms and slaughterhouses involved in meat production release far more carbon emissions than the family farms that once supplied wet markets. Increased consumption of beef in China requires expanding pastureland for grazing and feed growing, destroying forest habitats across the globe. 

Overall, the transition from wet market to packaged meat consumption in China could result in a far less sustainable environmental outcome, compared to the status quo.

Indeed, the contribution of industrial meat processing to Climate Change has become a favored marketing device of vegan and vegetarian advocates these days.

So, rather than castigate wet markets, why not accept them as the dynamic enterprises they are, while promoting sanitation measures at the markets that can tame the risk of outbreaks. 

And rather than gag at the Chinese consumption of fresh, wild animals-we should admire the Chinese willingness to consume animals that require less resource-intensive agriculture.