Our planet, us and Covid-19

Our pursuit of higher and higher rates of growth and profit, gluttony and profligacy and our endless armed conflicts are wreaking havoc on Mother Earth. The scourge of plastic, pollution of air, river and sea, deforestation, overfishing, relentless mining and damming of rivers are slowly killing not just animals but us as well. We are biting the hand that feeds us!

(Published in Daily Times, 24 April 2020)

Howsoever one looks at it, Covid-19 is unprecedented in living memory, not just as a pandemic, but a psychological shock and a socio-economic catastrophe on a truly global scale, east to west, north to south, from New Zealand to Iceland, China to Canada.

A microscopic, non-living organism has battered every economy and humbled all the great powers. It has exposed man, with his awesome arsenals, supercomputers, interplanetary rockets and sophisticated hospitals, as weak and helpless.

Before this Coronavirus, all are equally vulnerable. Rich countries and poor tremble before it. It strikes believers and non-believers without discrimination. Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, the pious and the blasphemous, none feels safe.

The world’s sole and most fearsome superpower is cowering in confusion. Its most arrogant president has nowhere to hide, no target to bomb, except the World Health Organisation. Like a cat barking up the wrong tree.

The humble Coronavirus has struck such terror into people’s hearts everywhere that quacks and charlatans of all denominations are having a field day, recommending all manner of cures, from cow urine to hot water gargle, from holy water to black seed (“kalonji”), in addition to chants and prayers.

Believers find some joy in the world’s collective misery, for it redeems their belief that there is a divine power infinitely more powerful than any worldly superpower. He watches and, every now and then, punishes mankind for its sins.

Those of the opposite persuasion, which includes atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers, feel vindicated that mankind’s collective and callous disregard for the world’s flora, fauna, land and air is now coming back to haunt us, as they had repeatedly warned.

Call it what you will, divine power or the forces of nature, surely Covid-19 contains a serious a message for mankind. And it is not out of the blue. Climatologists, environmentalists, naturalists, animal rights advocates and the like have long warned that our reckless and senseless depredation of nature will not be without dire consequences.

We extract, consume, dispose and discard living and non-living matter from our planet with great brutality and as if there is no tomorrow. Be it the bowel of the earth or the deep sea, defenceless animal or pristine forest, meandering river, verdant valley or towering mountain, if there is a dollar to me made by exploiting it, we will ravage it.

Animals we kill not just for food and medicine, but also for their furs and skins to make branded coats, hats, purses, wallets, belts and shoes. Bears we keep alive in cages to extract their bile for our health benefit. Sharks we throw back into the ocean to die after chopping off their fins to make tasty soup.

One wishes there was some court somewhere, where mankind could be arraigned for its collective and individual crimes against other species and nature itself.

It is now almost certain that this latest Coronovirus (Covid-19) originated in bats and passed to humans through another animal, perhaps the pangolin. The previous mutation of the Coronovirus (SARS) had likewise jumped from bat to man through the civet cat. HIV and Ebola virus also made their transition from animal to human through our consumption of bushmeat.

We have treated some members of our own species only slightly better than animals. Rohingyas in Burma (Myanmar), Ahmadis in Pakistan and, increasingly, Muslims in India, to mention a few, are treated as less than human in their own countries. Not so long ago, we kept slaves. Why, even now the poor and the destitute are forced into lives of virtual slavery.

For those who are feeling pessimistic about the current situation, it was just about a hundred years ago that the Influenza pandemic of 1919-20 killed between 50 and 100 million people, followed by the Great Depression a decade later, which caused mass poverty in the West.

It is fair to assume that these gloomy times will also pass, nations will bounce back and our legions of doomsday prophets will fall silent, until the next catastrophe. But it should not and must not be back to business as usual. If we don’t learn the right lessons from our current ordeal and mend our ways, then indeed we are on the descent to doom. Something somewhere must give.

Our pursuit of higher and higher rates of growth and profit, gluttony and profligacy and our endless armed conflicts are wreaking havoc on Mother Earth. The scourge of plastic, pollution of air, river and sea, deforestation, overfishing, relentless mining and damming of rivers are slowly killing not just animals but us as well. We are biting the hand that feeds us!

Thanks to the humble Coronavirus, Newton’s third law of physics, which says that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, seems to extend to biology. And also to climatology, judging by the increasing frequency of draughts, fires, landslides, floods and epidemics.

Being no more than specks of dust before the overwhelming forces of nature, we are too weak to destroy the earth even if we keep trying for another ten thousand years. But through our callousness, lust, greed and profligacy we can make it unliveable for ourselves, not to mention our descendants.

There is no doubting the power and fury of nature. Increasingly, our life on earth resembles nature versus man, in the sense that nature unleashes its destructive forces and we seek the wherewithal to protect ourselves from them, while relentlessly exploiting it for our benefit.

But we may now actually be at a moment of reckoning. Our pursuit of self-aggrandisement at every level, personal and family, village, town and country, and our treatment of the flora and fauna with reckless and cruel abandon must stop.

Despite our marvellous scientific and medical advances, nature is taking its revenge on us through more frequent draughts, floods, landslides, fires and epidemics. Warnings have been many, from nature, from scientists and from good men and women, but our lust for the good life and material pleasure, and penchant for violence and war, has made a mockery of their warnings.

Our life on the planet should not be a battle of nature versus man but one of mutual coexistence to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, we have distorted this relationship into one of hostility.

There can be no doubt as to who will triumph in a war of man versus nature. Our haughty ways barely conceal the truth (and knowledge) that we are an endangered species and in grave danger of working towards our own extinction.

  • by Razi Azmi
This entry was posted in Current Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Our planet, us and Covid-19

  1. Merima says:

    Hi Razi simply beautiful, thanks Merima

  2. Shoaib Noor says:

    Thank you Sir.

    THE Punch Line is :

    Being no more than specks of dust before the overwhelming forces of nature, we are too weak to destroy the earth even if we keep trying for another ten thousand years. But through our callousness, lust, greed and profligacy we can make it unliveable for ourselves, not to mention our descendants

  3. Jehanzeb says:

    It is indeed a moment of reckoning. A opportunity for a reset of our social and economic values and goals. A renewal beckons.

  4. Nazar Naqvi says:

    As usual Dr. Azmi has analyzed the current situation of corona virus with reason and convincing arguments. In spite of so much advancement, we have not learnt or made any effort to respect the nature and other species. Time has come for humans to realize the need of hour. All nations and governments need to devise a common strategy to make the universe livable for the humans. Humans have made tremendous advancement but not cared to preserve the nature for peaceful existence of humans and other creatures.

  5. Arif Hassan says:

    Beautifully written Dr. Azmi. The world is increasingly becoming dangerous from all sides. Nature has spoken but I don’t think any lesson will be learnt. Thanks for enlightening us on such an important issue. Let’s pray for a better tomorrow.

  6. Khalid Pathan says:

    You have very well articulated the dilemma of human race on the one hand and the mother nature on the other. Very well written.

  7. Ali Wako says:

    Thanks Razi, for explaining the inter-relatednesss and our reliance on the environment which we totally disregard. Nature has been telling us the over exploitation and greed for more resources is not sustainable.

    But we blindly do everything to turn our skies, seas and rivers into garbage dumps day after day. We are getting nature’s revenge sweet and quick through rising temperatures, desertification, droughts, floods, dwinding water sources, massive polution and now diseases.

    But when those causing the most damage to the climate are refusing to accept this imbalance between changing climate and dwinding resources are not man made, then poverty will keep rising and the tide of migration to other places will only excalate.

  8. Pradeep Kalra says:

    A very appropriate description of the current situation and the reasons responsible have been very convincingly put forward by the author. The present times are very challenging.

    Mother Nature has given a warning to mend our ways and it is high time we take note and start behaving ourselves. It is a common threat for all of us and we all should unite to tackle it.

    We humans are so consumed with consumption that we have paid no heed to the warnings of the experts and scientists. The present situation is the result of the disrespect we humans have shown to our environment and Nature in general.

  9. Jacob Walter Kipp says:

    Speaks to the human condition in all its complexity at this particular time and place. His words speak to believers of many faiths and to humanists. Azmi states the challenge before all of us. He speaks of a human reckoning which will follow our species because it has not understood and accepted the fact that our treatment of nature has turned us into an endangered species. I wish more people had access to what he writes and that there could be a true international discussion of the issues which he raises. The time is now and the need is self-evident. I am very proud to call him a friend.

  10. A.Hatter says:

    Excellent work Dr Azmi….keep it coming…

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