Throughout The Hot Zone, Richard Preston emphasizes how globalization has made worldwide pandemics a real and present danger for the human race. When Charles Monet falls ill at the beginning of the book, he boards an airplane, an act that could easily have spread Ebola throughout the world. Although Mayinga N. knows that she is sick, she still travels all around a populated and crowded city, another instance in which a pandemic could have begun. Kinshasa Highway, another emblem of progress, actively helped to facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS. A plane, a city, a highway—all of these are common elements of modern life, and have helped to make the world feel ever smaller and more interconnected. This kind of globalization is supposed to make life easier, but when it comes to the spread of disease, it can instead extinguish life entirely. Perhaps the most powerful example of the dangers globalization poses is the monkeys in the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit. They are imported from the Philippines to Virginia, and somehow manage to bring an African virus to American shores, demonstrating the ways that Ebola has adapted to and taken advantage of the modern world.
Globalization Quotes in The Hot Zone
When you begin probing into the origins of AIDS and Marburg, light fails and things go dark, but you sense hidden connections. Both viruses seem part of a pattern.
Ebola has not yet made a decisive, irreversible breakthrough into the human race, but it seemed close to doing that. It had been emerging in microbreaks here and there in Africa. The worry was that a microbreak would develop into an unstoppable tidal wave. If the virus killed nine out of ten people it infected, and there was no vaccine or cure for it, you could see the possibilities. The possibilities were global.
[Nancy] had almost caught Ebola from a dead monkey, who had caught it from a young woman named Mayinga, who had caught it from a nun who had caught it from a nun who had crashed and bled out in the jungles of Zaire in years gone by.
Gene felt a prickling sensation on his scalp. The paths of Charles Monet and Peter Cardinal had crossed at only one place on earth, and that was inside Kitum Cave. What had they done in the cave? What had they found in there? What had they touched? What had they breathed? What lived in Kitum Cave?
C. J. Peters observed the comings and goings at the gas station. It gave him a sense of life and time passing, and he enjoyed the pleasant normality of the scene…What would these people think if they knew what had invaded their town? He had begun to think that the Army might have to act decisively to put out this fire. He had been in Bolivia when a hot agent called Machupo had broken out, and he had seen a young woman die, covered with blood. North America had not yet seen an emergence of an agent that turned into bleeders. North America was not ready for that, not yet. But the possibilities for a huge break of Ebola around Washington were impressive when you thought about it.
The paving of Kinshasa Highway affected every person on earth, and turned out to be one of the most important events of the twentieth century. It has already cost at least ten million lives, with the likelihood that the ultimate number of human casualties will vastly exceed the deaths in the Second World War. In effect, I had witnessed a crucial event in the emergence of AIDS, the transformation of a thread of dirt into a ribbon of tar.
The emergence of AIDS, Ebola, and any number of other rain-forest agents appears to be a natural consequence of the ruin of the tropical biosphere. The emerging viruses are surfacing from ecologically damaged parts of the earth…In a sense, the earth is mounting an immune response against the human species…Perhaps the biosphere does not “like” the idea of five million humans…Nature has interesting ways of balancing itself. The rain forest has its own defenses. The earth’s immune system, so to speak, has recognized the presence of the human species and is starting to kick in. The earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by the human parasite. Perhaps AIDS is the first step in a natural process of clearance.
I suspect that AIDS might not be Nature’s preeminent display of power. Whether the human race can actually maintain a population of five billion or more without a crash with a hot virus remains an open question. Unanswered. The answer lies hidden in the labyrinth of tropical ecosystems. AIDS is the revenge of the rain forest. It may only be the beginning.