What does the coronavirus tell us about ourselves as a human species, about our dominant economic and technological paradigms, and about Earth? A small virus has “confined” the world, paralyzed the world economy, claimed the lives of thousands of people and the livelihoods of millions more.
First, this period of containment reminds us that Earth is a home for all species, and when we step back and make the streets "car-free," air pollution is reduced. Elephants can come to the suburbs of Dehra Dun and bathe in the Ganges River at Har Ki Pauri in the city of Haridwar.
A leopard roams free in Chandigarh, designed by Le Corbusier, where I did my masters in physics.
The second lesson is that this pandemic is not a "natural disaster", just as meteorological phenomena are not "natural disasters". Outbreaks of epidemic diseases, such as climate change, are "anthropogenic", that is, caused by human activities.
Science tells us that by invading forest ecosystems, destroying species' habitats, and manipulating wildlife for profit, we create the conditions for new diseases. In the last 50 years, 300 new pathogens have emerged. It is well known that around 70% of human pathogens, including HIV, Ebola, flu, the Sea and Sars, arise when forest ecosystems are invaded and viruses are transmitted from animals to humans. When animals are cornered on factory farms to maximize profits, new diseases like swine and bird flu spread.
Human greed, without respect for the rights of other species and our fellow human beings, is at the root of this and future pandemics. A world economy based on the illusion of unlimited growth translates into an insatiable appetite for the planet's resources, which translates into a constant violation of the limits of the planet, its ecosystem and its species.
The third lesson that this virus makes us aware of is that the health emergency is linked to the urgency of the extinction and disappearance of species. When we use poisons like insecticides and herbicides to kill insects and plants, an extinction crisis is inevitable. When we burn the fossilized carbon that the Earth has fossilized for 600 million years, we are violating the limits of the planet. Climate change is the consequence.
Scientific predictions indicate that if we do not stop this war of man against the Earth and its species, within a hundred years we will have destroyed the very conditions that have allowed humans to evolve and survive.
Our disappearance will follow that of the other 200 species that are pushed to extinction every day. We will become one more species among the million species threatened by human greed, arrogance and irresponsibility.
All life-threatening emergencies in our time are rooted in a mechanistic, militaristic, and anthropocentric view of the world in which humans are separated from nature, as masters of the Earth who can possess, manipulate and control other species to obtain Benefits. It is also based on an economic model that considers ecological and ethical limits to be obstacles that must be removed to increase business profits. This model has no place for the rights of the Earth, the rights of other species, the rights of human beings and the rights of future generations.
During this crisis and in the post-Coronavirus recovery period, we must learn to protect the Earth, its climate systems, the rights and ecosystems of various species, indigenous peoples, women, farmers and workers.
We must abandon the economy of greed and limitless growth that has led us to this existential crisis. We must realize that we are members of an Earth family and that the true economy is the economy of care, for the Earth and for each one of us.
To avoid future pandemics, future famines, and a potential loss scenario, we must move beyond the industrialized and globalized economic system that is causing climate change, species extinctions and the spread of deadly diseases. The locality leaves room for diverse species, diverse cultures and diverse living local economies to flourish.
We must consciously reduce our ecological footprint to leave a fair share of resources and ecological space for other species, all humans and future generations.
The health emergency and containment have shown that when there is political will, we can demondialize. Let's make this relocation sustainable and tailor production according to Gandhi's Swadeshi philosophy, that is, locally made.
As our experience at the NGO Navdanya for more than three decades has taught us, local organic and biodiverse food systems provide healthy food for all while regenerating soil, water and biodiversity.
The rich biodiversity of our forests, our farms, our food, our gut microbiome, connects the planet, its diverse species, including humans, through health, rather than disease.
A small virus can help us take a step forward to create a global and ecological civilization based on harmony with nature.
Or we can continue to live in the illusion of dominance over nature and move rapidly toward the next pandemic… and eventually extinction.
The Earth will continue to evolve with or without us.