For security reasons, I cannot disclose my identity. I will only say I was present at a meeting between heads of state, executives from multinational companies and NGOs. I should not have been there at all, but ever since the Epstein murder went uninvestigated, it seems they have become increasingly careless. All unsanctioned narratives are simply conspiracy theories now, no matter how well they comport with the facts, so what does it matter if a witness reports the contents of their secret discussions? Accordingly, I do not expect my testimony to make a material impact. I relate it solely out of personal urgency. The secrets I possess have become too burdensome to bear alone.
The meeting was ostensibly about the climate change problem which to varying degrees all of the participants took seriously. Some believed it was an imminent existential threat, while others were concerned about economic and geopolitical implications. One premise on which they all seemed to agree was that they had an obligation to confront humanity’s biggest challenges — by whatever means necessary.
During the discussion, a prominent head of state, who had been silent for most of it, told the group their ideas were sensible, but unfortunately too late. International cooperation wasn’t feasible at the required scale, and even if they could get the prime ministers on board, it would be a difficult sell to increasingly populist electorates. Maybe their proposals would have worked two decades earlier, but time was now of the essence.
He turned the floor over to his Director of Science. The Director smiled politely to the group and explained they had developed a contagious pathogen, carefully engineered to spare children, that would spread around the globe, killing mostly the old and sick. It wasn’t their first choice, but after considering the risks of inaction and the futility of alternative proposals, it was the best option. He paused, taking in the reactions of the startled room. The head of an NGO, who was apparently part of the project, added that preliminary research on a vaccine had already been done, and that they could eventually rein in the virus as needed.
Amidst the confusion, one multinational CEO stood up and said what was on everyone’s mind: Incentivizing people toward the common good was one thing, but there must be some line across which even the most well-intentioned should not step. And while drawing such a line was always difficult, surely unleashing a deadly pandemic, no matter the end result, was far beyond it.
The scientist looked toward the NGO leader who had spoken about the vaccines. The leader pressed the keys of his laptop, displaying a few graphics on the conference room projection screen. It showed NGO and governmental studies projecting climate change would kill tens of millions of people and cost tens of trillions of dollars. Another graphic showed the virus could reasonably be estimated to kill only two to five million before the vaccines were in sufficient supply, and remember these would be the oldest and sickest. In years-of-life terms, climate change — even by conservative estimates — would dwarf the virus in deadliness and economic harm. He argued therefore that releasing the virus was not only justifiable but morally obligatory. That they were duty-bound to steer humanity from the precipice.
Some participants remained dubious, questioning the lethality of the virus, the possibility of mutations and also the effectiveness of the yet-to-be developed vaccines. But after vigorous reassurances about the care with which it was developed by the nation’s most prominent virologists, the mood in the room shifted. Not only would near total halt to travel and reduction in industry drastically reduce carbon emissions, but expensive pension and healthcare obligations would disappear en masse. Yes, the looming shutdowns would cost dearly in short-term GDP, but as an act of God, they would also offer a much-needed out for already beleaguered leadership.
One not-very-popular leader speculated it would accelerate his economy’s drive towards digitization, making it easier to track rogue elements. Another mused the lockdowns would create a more responsive populace, one that might be inclined to think less selfishly and more about helping others. It could give rise to a renewal of sorts, a world where consuming and possessing gave way to modest appetites and gratitude for being. It was unfortunate, they all agreed, it had come to this, but mercifully the virus was engineered to be benign to most, and in some ways the horrific means only affirmed the depth of their commitment to noble ends.
It’s possible I have gotten some of these details wrong. I did not take notes as that would have been too conspicuous. (I was only present as a last minute replacement for an aide who was ill.) But you must know the broad outlines are the truth. The crisis has been manufactured, and from the relieved, almost cheerful faces of our leaders as they walked out of that room, I do not believe it will ever end.