COVID-19: Let’s mend our relations with Mother Nature

A man, wearing a mask, looks from a closed gate during lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. (PTI Photo)

The most ‘dominant’ and universally pervasive inhabitants of the planet earth– human beings- have suddenly gone into hiding. Their swift and forced ‘disappearance’, in the form of a lockdown, seems to be the only option to protect them from an invisible, microscopic, lesser-known and lethal virus called COVID-19, the latest entrant in the family of coronavirus. Originated in Wuhan, China a few months ago, the virus has spread rapidly to create the biggest global health pandemic of the century. With more than 20000 people already dead and more than 5 lakh under treatment COVID-19 is affecting 198 countries and territories around the world and one international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan). The human, economic and social cost of the pandemic is staggering and its impact will be felt for a long time.

Interestingly, while the virus has virtually caged millions of human beings in their homes, most other species in the natural world have no threat from it. Humans are forced to eschew their carefully crafted and structured lifestyle, while rest of the inhabitants of the planet are continuing with their daily rhythm. Does this signify something?  

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN environment Programme, recently said that nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis. Andersen said humanity was placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences, and warned that failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves.

Humans have always taken pride in calling themselves as the smartest, strongest and most intelligent species in the world, who could thrive on this planet, with their physical and mental superiority over other species, including large carnivores. They have put themselves on the highest pedestal, claiming pre-eminence over all other living beings, primarily because they have intellect (viveka) to change this world, unlike any other creatures. During thousands of years of evolutionary process, Homo sapiens did pretty impressive things and gradually spread to all corners of the globe, exploring the depth of oceans and the outer limits of sky. But, what humans could do in several thousand years, COVID-19 did in a few months’ time. The analogy might sound irrelevant, but what it makes us understand is that other creatures on this planet also have the capacity to ‘change’ the human world. They have done it several times in the past and they are doing it now.

The current crisis has once again proved that nature is far more complex than what humans think and understand about it. The global health crisis not only needs medical solutions but a complete re-alignment of our equations with the natural world. Amidst, all this panic and pressure, there is an opportunity to re-think and more importantly re-establish our relationship with nature – both in spirit and action.  Time has gone, long ago, to justify human’s dominance through the prism of ‘survival of the fittest’ and the focus should be on the most fundamental aspect of life on this planet i.e ‘co-existence of all”. This planet and the natural world can survive without humans, but humans can’t survive without nature

In her bestseller “A history of God” author Karen Armstrong writes in the chapter ‘Has God a future’, “Human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning”. Perhaps, this is the time to focus on re-building our relationship with mother nature and have a dialogue with an open heart. Let nature reign and we all will survive.

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