The Planet and the Pandemic

The entire world has been brought to its knees by a sub-cellular organism. All the money and military might of the superpowers has been ineffective in defeating it. The pandemic has changed the world as we know. We are yet to figure out its impact on our future or how the future itself will be. The mighty corporate giants find their grand strategies and meticulous plans rendered meaningless. One wonders why enough importance and emphasis has not been given to the real reason for this pandemic, which is the abuse and total disregard of the environment. Among the plethora of webinars, seminars, and talks being organised during this period, the majority focus on the impact of Covid-19 on something and how something or the other will be post Covid-19, but hardly anyone discusses the cause. Yes, there have been a few voices on how mother earth is taking revenge on human beings for the years of abuse mankind has inflicted on her. Photographs and videos of animals venturing into human habitations have been widely shared in social media depicting how animals are reclaiming their land. While humans are confined, animals are roaming free. Besides these, there have been reports on cleaner air and rivers, and lower carbon emissions during the lockdown. Unfortunately, these did not get the same attention and importance amidst the cacophony of other news about what leaders world over were saying or doing, or how the pandemic and resulting lockdown was impacting the economy and various other things.

The real reason for the state of affairs, which no one is acknowledging is our economic model that endorses rapid unnatural, unsustainable growth and assigns monetary value as the indicator of development. The result - intensification of agriculture, burning of fossil fuels stored under the earth for millions of years thereby releasing carbon in the atmosphere, resultant climate change; de-forestation; factories spewing chemicals, polluting the air; poisoning of rivers, oceans and other water bodies, all adversely impacting the planet and its life forms. Together with this, a consumer driven lifestyle has resulted in irreversible damage to our planet. Humanity’s ecological footprint (human demands on the planet) has far exceeded earth’s bio-capacity (planet’s capability to regenerate the required demands). The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the ugliness and faults of our economic model.

Also, human beings have been carrying on as though they are the masters of this planet, the most important species in the world and the sole custodians of its resources. The earth is over four and half billion years old. It has taken millions of years for its atmosphere, water and soil to form and it took millions of years for the earth to fix the carbon in the atmosphere rendering it habitable for human beings. Humans on the other hand have in a span of little over a century changed the planet forever disrupting the delicate ecological balance. We humans have not learnt our lesson and, it is doubtful we ever will. Even though history is full of instances when nature has proved its superiority over mankind, we have given least priority and attention to the planet. World over we find leaders at the helm of affairs of the most important countries showing total disregard towards the environment. Evidence suggests how the anthropogenic changes have altered the laws of nature causing increase in frequencies of natural calamities like floods, hurricanes, cyclones, drought etc., yet we choose to ignore the signs and carry on. Sadly, it will be our future generations that will pay dearly and suffer most because of our actions. Let me quote Andre’ Gide, the French writer, ‘everything has been said before, but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and begin all over again’. Our model of development should integrate environmental considerations and embrace sustainability. Environment should never be sacrificed at the altar of development. Economic development at the cost of the planet will never be true development as money is of no value if there is no clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and virus free environment to live.

by Vandana Madhavkumar