The present pandemic, which in a few short months has wreaked havoc across our world, is most likely caused by an imbalance in the natural world, as loss of habitat and biodiversity is not only driving animals to extinction but directly causing animal viruses to spread to humans. In response our leaders are using the images of conflict: “We are at war with Covid 19,” we keep hearing; it is an “invisible enemy” we need to “vanquish.” But although this virus is disrupting our lives, causing sickness, death, and economic breakdown, it is itself a completely natural phenomenon, a living thing reproducing itself in the way nature intended. Are these images of conflict and conquest appropriate or even helpful? Do they help us to understand and to respond, to bring our world back into balance?
We are living in a time of profound imbalance, extreme social and economic inequality even as the natural world is being thrown into climate collapse and ecocide. This is what happens when a civilization fails, when we come to the end of an era. And stuck in our present patterns of divisiveness, of competition and conflict, we do not have any real solutions. But there is different way to be, “another country” that is not so far away, but in the ground under our feet, in the movement of the wind and water flowing over stones.
If we are to walk into this different land—not the battle-scarred landscape of our drive to fight and control nature, of clear-cut forests and vast monoculture fields, but a return to wholeness, to a sustainability that reaches deep into the Earth,—where will we begin? Could it be it as simple as returning, reconnecting with what is sacred and simple around us, the living connections that are already present but often overlooked?
Adapted from Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, The natural Order of Things
May I see the connections and respect the sacred.
How has the pandemic affected you? Are you annoyed at its intrusion into the “normal” way of things or do you see it as a reminder that change is needed? What is your response?
I brought you into the fruitful land
To eat its fruit and its good things.
But you came and defiled My land,
And My inheritance you made an abomination.
We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it.
Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest, most destructive exponential growth processes that we must grapple with today are those associated with global climate change.
We’re transforming the climate and we can’t pretend that these radical changes to how the Earth works and life on Earth are not going to affect our health.
Dr Aaron Bernstein
If you want to understand the kind of damage that climate change will inflict, look at COVID-19 and spread the pain out over a much longer period of time. The loss of life and economic misery caused by this pandemic are on par with what will happen regularly if we do not eliminate the world’s carbon emissions.
Researchers worry that rising temperatures could cause animals to spread disease in more widespread areas, make pathogens more savvy at surviving in hot climates, and possibly weaken the human body’s immune response.
The relationship between climate change and global health is unmistakable. This is a critical time for public health advocates to demand that political leaders safeguard the health of the world’s population, with particular attention to the survival needs of the most disadvantaged.
The International Response to Climate Change, An Agenda for Global Health, Lindsay F. Wiley, JD, MPH; Lawrence O. Gostin, JD
Climate change is only going to make pandemics like coronavirus more frequent.