• Anshul Kapoor

Is COVID-19 just a symptom of the greater threat we face?

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Imagine you had acidity and went to a physician to get antacid. But upon check-up, you find out that your stomach is infested with worms that are responsible for acidity. Would you just get the bottle of antacid and head home? I guess not. Probably you would also seek a treatment for worms. Similarly, overcoming COVID-19 is the need of the hour. But would that be enough to ensure the safety and health of present and future civilization? Is it the actual problem we face? Or just one of its symptoms?

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our world (be it cultural, political, social, economic, or personal) has touched almost every person on the planet. Such a large population has never been influenced by a single factor in the history of humankind. Most of the world’s population is caged in their residences as they helplessly witness the decline of economy and morale. As the global situation keeps worsening, our longing to break free from this pandemic keeps intensifying. We imagine that once this pandemic is eradicated, the world will be a safer, healthier place and it will be another victory for humankind.

In our current situation, overcoming the pandemic seems like the only priority for now. But if we, pressed by this priority, choose to ignore how this pandemic belongs to the bigger picture and what’s our role in that bigger picture, all our efforts may be futile in the longer run. One of the greater advantages that humans have over animals is their relative farsightedness. Both in the past, from which we learn, and in the future, for which we plan. Hence, a failure to consider the bigger picture may be against the very features that make us human.

In wake of the pandemic and the human response to it, many unintended and unforeseen phenomena have surfaced. These phenomena offer clues to that bigger picture which may be the key to understanding the real threat. Rivers that could not be cleaned after investing millions of dollars year after year, are cleaner after a few weeks of human inactivity. Polluted air, that had been accepted a part of our lives, is cleaner. Not because we cleaned any of it. But because we allowed nature to do its part. The recent reduction of pollution in our surroundings and the healing of planetary systems proves beyond doubt that our actions were constantly degrading the nature, against and overpowering the ecological processes that preserve it.

Among other things, COVID-19 brings an experimental demonstration of our intrusive and detrimental impact on nature.

The recent pandemic, while a threat in itself, can be seen as a natural consequence of:

  1. The shrinking natural wildlife habitats (that brings wild animals in close contact with humans)

  2. As a result of above: the jump of animal viruses from animals to humans (that may cause disease in humans)

  3. The high population density (that makes a contagious disease uncontrollable)

  4. The polluted living conditions and food chains (that weakens our ability to overcome diseases)

These conditions are a part of the world we have designed. Hence, we would be mistaken to consider COVID-19 as a special, sporadic event. Upon keener observation, one can find many other features of our present world that can become foundations of large scale catastrophes. Some examples can be:

  1. Extinction of species that play important roles in food chains and life chains

  2. Extracting excessive resources from Earth core, water, air systems (this bomb is already ticking)

  3. Climate change triggered by human influence in nature, etc.

Above ecological changes are also part of the same ‘bigger picture’ that the pandemic, humankind and our entire ecology belongs to. Many of the present and impending dangers that we face may be expected to be rooted in a local, limited and disjointed view of this picture. The entire Earthly system has reached an unhealthy state as its systems and processes have been disrupted by deliberate human actions. It would only be delusional to assume to humankind will remain untouched by these disturbances.

After recovering from the pandemic, to not change the way we look at our world would be same as getting the antacid without treating the worms. It will be a short term relief at the cost of long term safety. While there are many who share my opinion, there are also those who cannot wait to get back to the world as it was before COVID-19 pandemic — a world characterized by limitless ambition, ever-growing population and insatiable consumerist needs; a world considered to be an assembly of independent, unrelated systems.

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