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Has the coronavirus given us a second chance at redemption?

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Human evolution dates back to approximately 6 million years. There are roughly 8.7 million species of living beings on earth, many of them originated much before mankind and continue to exist. Unlike others, humans could think, reason, had intelligence, emotion all needed to build a better world not just for them but for everyone. However, with superiority comes responsibility and history tells us since ages humans have been unkind, brutal and insensitive towards nature and other living beings. Their sole focus especially in the last few decades has been pursuing a mean agenda that only benefits the race, indulging in activities that are steadily driving the entire planet into immeasurable risk.

Be it the menace of single-use plastic, modern means of extracting shale oil, large scale deforestation, industrialization, roads across tiger reserve, nuclear plants in ecologically sensitive zones, marginalization of indigenous people, humans have done everything they could to disrupt the balance of nature with great impunity. We have wronged the planet in so many ways and would have continued doing so if coronavirus or COVID-19 had not decided to crash the party. It took only a little over 4 months for a virus to bring the entire human race to its knees, decimating its condescending attitude and exposing its vulnerability and tininess in front of mother nature.

The mighty and the most advanced countries are racing against time to save their people and halt the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. With businesses shut, jobs lost, farmers devastated and people terrified due to an uncertain future, many of them are staring at an imminent economic disaster raising doubts if there was ever a contingency plan in place for such a catastrophe. Whether the virus originated in a wet market in China or escaped a lab, that the country mishandled the entire situation triggering a global crisis, is a gross understatement. It is also a matter of great curiosity how China was able to control the pandemic the way it is showcasing. With a state-controlled media and zero interference allowed from external press, the Chinese numbers look too good to be true.

Europe that faced the most savage assault of the virus from there on has somehow steadied itself now barring Russia. The USA with over 2 million confirmed cases is the new epicenter of the pandemic now. The big numbers may be attributed to their superior healthcare infra and the fact that they are testing anybody under the sun with the slightest of symptoms. India that remained largely unaffected by the virus until March went into a lockdown pretty early, when the number of infected was not even 500, is slowly but surely starting to feel the heat. With a mammoth population, a deficient healthcare infrastructure at various levels, not so disciplined people, the situation is getting really grim with apprehension of the pandemic peaking in June-July.

Quite ironically, an economically impregnable country like the USA risked its populace by not enforcing a complete lockdown in the country to save the economy. And a developing economy like India risked its economy to save the people by implementing lockdown in phases from 1.0 to 4.0 since 25th March. Although it did help to contain the virus and keep the mortality rate down, the lockdown also severely impaired the country’s finances and devastated people’s lives so much so that the government has now been forced to reopen almost all activities despite the graph not showing signs of flattening.

Almost every country has been impacted by it, but none handled it with aplomb. Mistakes have been made, yet all countries are learning each day and trying their best to save people and bring their economies back on track. But whether we like it or not the virus has altered our lifestyles in a way we never thought was possible, some of which were perhaps needed as well.

The fake life we lived so far with our work schedules, gym sessions, chanting, shopping, party routines and trying to make ourselves look cool especially in social media has been mercilessly devalued, confining us to our homes. For the first time, we realized how unimportant these things were, what this vicious circle had done to us and understood our real priorities in life. We were so busy chasing a future that we had completely overlooked something the virus helped us discover, our present. It also registered somewhere inside us that those who we had neglected so far in our avaricious pursuits like parents, spouse, children, close friends were the ones who stood with us in need and really mattered.

The other discovery we made during this phase was how little we actually need to lead a reasonably comfortable life. Whether it was money, household stuff, food supplies, toiletries, cars etc. We failed to explain to ourselves the rationale behind the non-stop purchases of expensive garments, shoes, fancy accessories etc. we had been doing all our lives when they don’t even qualify as ‘essentials’. This may have led many of us to a further discovery that how severely we all are infected by the malady of addictive consumerism, much more than the virus in fact. Experts say that we may overcome the virus over the next few months, but the damage it has inflicted on the economies could take years to recover. So, whether we permanently alter our seriously flawed lifestyles going ahead or continue with our old ways is something for us to decide.

Despite all the negativity the virus has unfurled, it has inadvertently given us some positives as well. In life we seldom get a second chance to correct something and make amends and the virus has just given us that. A second chance at redemption, to ponder over our existence, how we have lived our lives, ways we have unleashed brutality on nature & its beings and a realistic chance of discovering means to set everything right, coexist and blend with other beings.

Most businesses across the world have been centered around large-scale exploitation of nature and its invaluable resources. We remain oblivious to the fact that the massive 7.8 billion population in the world will anyway eat up most of the planet’s resources one day by their mere existence. Add to it our self-created hazards of overpopulation, limitless extraction & burning of fossil fuel, all forms of pollution, unabated deforestation, climate change, mass production and usage of plastic etc. and we might actually feel a little fortunate to be still extant.

Unless businesses that have pounded the environment for far too long, make a concerted effort towards a measured adaption to renewable and cleaner energy that impacts neither livelihood nor the ecosystem, unless governments strive towards creating a functional economy that supports and protects all lives on earth, this stroll towards a guaranteed catastrophe could very soon turn into a sprint. It is easier said than done because it would be difficult to undo the wrong practices adopted and applied for hundreds of years. But it’s about time humans shifted their focus, intent and efforts precisely in that direction if we truly want to avoid an apocalypse. The way nature healed itself in the last four months as humans were locked down, should be an eye-opener. Clearer and cleaner rivers and seas, Himalayas sighted from 200 kms away from Jalandhar after 30 years due to reduced pollution are testimonies to what nature was and what we had done to it. It further substantiates the fact that so much more can be achieved if human behavior becomes more responsible, foresighted, considerate and compassionate towards the planet and its other inhabitants in the post pandemic world. 

Subhasish Das
[email protected]

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