computer generated image of coronavirus

What Can We Learn From Coronavirus?

Those who frame coronavirus as an enemy are wrong. A virus, no matter how destructive to us and those we love, is but another part of life on this planet. Even if you accept the language of war, remember Ovid’s words: “Fas est et ab hoste doceri.” It is right to learn, even from the enemy. Salonika and Aimee Wild ask: “what can we learn from coronavirus?”

By Salonika and Aimee Wild

Coronavirus (CoViD-19) has spread across the world. The virus can affect our internal organs and may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is characterized by difficulty in breathing, often culminating in death.

Once a person reaches this stage, there is no treatment available: the person’s immunity is the only hope for recovery.

Many activities of industrial civilization have been shut down for fear of contagion from the virus, affecting most humans in the industrialized world. Thousands more have lost loved ones. In a situation close to a living nightmare, there is immense suffering across the world. People are asking questions to try and understand how Corona was created. Could it have been prevented? Can we use our experience with Corona to prevent any potential future suffering?

Yes and yes. We — industrialized humans — must learn to listen and learn from our experiences of Corona.

Corona is a direct result of human destruction of the natural world.

Mother Earth holds intricately balanced, coexisting natural communities, of which microorganisms are an integral part. By destroying and changing vast amounts of the natural world, we have interfered with that balance.

The origin of epidemic diseases can be traced back to the beginning of animal domestication. The new way of life demanded by civilization has brought with it several evolutionary drawbacks, making us more vulnerable to these diseases.

Our destruction of the natural habitat has led us into the depths of wild communities where these pathogens have remain contained for a long time. As intruders to these communities, our bodies lack appropriate defense against these viruses .

Considering the capitalist economy that relies heavily on global trade and densely populated living spaces (cities) in relation to the alien pathogens, they were bound to spread across larger areas and at a more rapid pace.

Crisis capitalism vs. Mutual aid

Some humans are striving to build mutual aid groups to offer support as Covid-19 spreads. Others strive to profit from the chaos that it has created. Profiting from other’s suffering can only be understood in the context of an inherently selfish culture, one that rewards greed. Domination over others is a value innate in such a system.

Outside this system, domination is understood as unhealthy. For some of us, this dire situation has brought along a distancing of our identification with this culture. It has reminded us what we really value in life: health, life, love, relationships, community, trees, food and our homes.

The natural world is, in some small ways, recovering its health thanks to the halt of destructive human activities. The pollution in China has subsided drastically. The same is true for Europe and United States. The roads are quieter. The air smells fresher. All from a few months of economic lockdown.

Mother Earth is resilient.

She has the capacity to heal, if only we let her. The suffering due to corona is immense, yet not unparalleled. Experts claim that the lives saved by the economic lockdown (think less air pollution) may be greater than the lives lost to the pandemic.

There are a lot of people suffering from systemic forces of violence. People are dying through toxification of their environment. Civilians are suffering from continual wars fueled by the military-industrial complex. Women experience violence of their domestic partners and 200 species become extinct each day. For them, life itself is a nightmare, with or without a pandemic.

The concern regarding Covid-19 is warranted although it is incredible to us, that global systemic violence is not considered a priority. That the links between destruction and pandemics are being ignored. Covid-19 is threatening the structures of power that form the basis for our way of life — the global industrial economy. Systemic forms of violence, power and control are required to maintain those structures.

Fortunately, the means for solving both forms of suffering — from pandemics and systemic violence — are related.

For decades environmental campaigners have been talking about the mushrooming population of the planet: the need to return to local food growing and rewilding, replanting broad leafed trees and grasslands.

Feminists have been talking for decades about providing reproductive rights to women. The relationship between women’s empowerment and ecological health has been well-documented.

When women and girls have control over their lives, when we are aware of the choices to grow gardens, friendships, food, trees, instead of babies, the environment is bound to flourish.

We have been thinking about the health of Mother Earth, in relation to the continued destruction of the natural world. Mother Earth used to have clean waters, fresh air, plenty of forests and ancient woodland. There used to be old grasslands and her oils, minerals, peat, coal and precious ores were safe inside her belly. She was a healthy, abundant place to be. She easily healed from sickness.

Now, our Earth struggles to breathe due to the toxic levels of pollution in her skies.

Her oceans have acidified. Her grasslands have been stripped. The industrial logging of forests and woodlands are removing her lungs. The oceans, once teaming with life now hold more plastic than fish.

Humans have polluted the earth so much that she’s sick. The infections are a symptom of that sickness. We are not listening.

We knew that a Covid-19 type infection was increasingly probable. We realize that we could suffer, die, or lose loved ones. Yet there are many things to be fearful of. We fear the possibility of male violence. As feminists we are concerned about the global crisis of physical and sexual violence from men towards women and children.

We are scared that once the Covid-19 nightmare is over, the deforestation of Amazon will continue. That the murder of indigenous activists will continue. We are fearful for the natural world. Fearful that afterwards business will resume as usual. That corporations will speed up their destruction to compensate for lost time — and profits.

We are scared that, soon, our experiences of this crisis will be framed by the culture’s drive towards domination of the natural world. Cue, media campaigns and advertising to restart economic growth. Our hearts ache for the suffering and global fear caused by this pandemic. Our hearts ache for the suffering of every species struggle to survive.

We can protect ourselves from future pandemics, by not interfering with the natural balance of living communities.

If we protected the natural world she would, by her nature, protect us from future pandemics. It is possible to halt the destruction and listen to the wisdom offered on these issues. We need to stop and listen.

We need to eradicate environmental pollutants. We need to stop the destruction of our natural world. We need to put an end to nuclear waste and global capitalism. We need to shift civilization over to a respectful way of living, produce our food in a different way and reintroduce diversity.

More of us need to start rewilding our lands. We need to eradicate violence towards our planet. We need to eradicate racism, patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, globalization and every other system that prioritizes the privilege of a few people over the well-being of all humans, non-humans and the natural world.

The systems — of capitalism and patriarchy — are protected by structures of power which makes change difficult. Not impossible.

It requires loyalty to the natural world. It requires compassion to the suffering of humans and nonhumans alike. It requires courage to face power like the people out in the moonlight putting their bodies between badgers and the guns. Like the women in Rojava risking death in their fight for equality. It requires perseverance to get back up when you fall. It requires organized political resistance.

We need to find a new way.


Featured image by Felipe Esquivel Reed, CC BY SA 4.0

2 thoughts on “What Can We Learn From Coronavirus?”

  1. Excellent essay. But as noted, the power structure is already organizing to resume full-speed destruction of the planet. Even the so-called “radical left” of the Democratic Party only seeks alternative ways to expand the electrical grid, when Nature’s imperative is to ground the airlines permanently, put the commercial fleet in mothballs, and transform a global economy into local endeavors that do little more than providing basic needs.

    The simple yet inescapable lesson humanity must learn quickly is that capitalism is cancer of the world. Left untreated, cancer is fatal because the disease grows uncontrollably on its host organism, which is a body that is already full size, and thus dies when its immune system is overwhelmed by the growing malignancy. On a planetary scale, our profit-based economic system is the uncontrollably growing tumor. And our host organism that cannot grow (Earth) is seeing its immune system (the biosphere) overwhelmed, as the ever-grow malignancy of capitalism consumes its finite resources. (At the current but rapidly expanding rate of exploitation, we are going through approximately 50 billion tons of non-renewable resources per year. And at the present rate of disease growth, the patient has been given 30-60 years to live).

    Among the many key signs of impending death (which the cancer’s brainless corporate and political cells are incapable of recognizing) are the following:

    1) Insect deaths are on pace toward total extinction by 2100, which means the decimation of natural pollination, and the collapse of plant populations and the food chain.

    2) Scientific estimates of global temperature rise by 2100 have been increased from 2°C to as much as 10°C, which also translates into a total death scenario.

    3) In a time frame many of us could live to see, revised estimates of sea level rise have been kicked up — from 3 feet by 2100, to as much as 10 feet by 2050. This would inundate most of the world’s coastal cities, and put vast regions of the Earth underwater, including the Mekong, Nile, Mississippi, and Amazon Deltas, most of Bangladesh, the Netherlands, half of Florida, etc.

    4) The warming of the polar regions has also created little methane geysers in the Arctic Ocean and on land, threatening a sudden methane release equal to all the fossil fuels mankind has burned in the last 270 years (another “Game Over” scenario).

    And yet, there are also modest signs that planetary suicide isn’t quite inevitable:

    1) Planting 3 or 4 trillion trees worldwide could offset CO2 emissions. And while it may sound impossible, that’s only about 500 trees per human, which the people currently out of work should be able to do in a few weeks — IF they were re-employed in such a rarely constructive industry, instead of the usual destructive ones.

    2) While most of the world is afraid even to talk about stopping population growth, two of India’s states have not only addressed the problem, but potentially solved it. And they have done so without a single murdered baby, forced abortion, or involuntary sterilization. All they did was to make the parents of 3 or more children ineligible for government jobs or government loans — and suddenly, as if by magic, population stopped growing!

  2. @Mark Behren
    Your comments are spot on as usual. I would just add this: humans’ proper role on Earth is to expand our consciousness, not to artificially and very harmfully manipulate the physical/natural world. Humans’ interactions with the physical world after getting basic necessities like food & water should be to look and experience, but not touch.

    Humans went off the rails thousands of years ago by obsessing on their egos and intellects, and on the material world. The proper focus would have been empathy, wisdom, love for all life, and expanding consciousness. This could be reversed, but without doing so humans will just continue to destroy the planet in multiple ways until nothing or virtually nothing is left.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *