We are in the midst of a pandemic. This is not the first and will certainly not be the last. What may be different today is that it is much more in your face thanks to the available ways we communicate with one another. This makes it more difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not (https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-why-we-should-keep-our-eyes-and-ears-open-as-well-as-our-hands-clean-133549). One thing is clear, Covid-19 poses a threat, particularly for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions (Source: WHO). Whereas any death is deplorable and sad, people will die, as they do in much higher quantities from other diseases. So, why this fear and, in some cases, irrational behavior?
The guidelines (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) are clear on how to protect yourself: 1) wash your hands regularly, 2) maintain social distancing, 3) avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, 4) practice respiratory hygiene, 5) If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early, 6) Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider. In case you have been around someone who has caught the virus self-quarantine for 14 days and, if you believe you have caught the virus, contact your medical professional according to local procedures. It should not be that difficult to implement this and, shouldn’t we be doing these things anyway?
In response to the spread of the virus, we are currently witnessing drastic measures being put in place like banning travel, closing borders, universities, schools, shops, restaurants, etcetera. And, in the meantime, financial markets are tumbling, businesses are struggling, and many are coming to a standstill. From what has been learnt from China, the measures they implemented seem to have paid off if you look at the slowdown in number of new cases (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/).
If you think about it, it is actually quite ironic. Whereas there are still many people in the world who are in denial about the science around climate change or that this is a really serious issue we need to face head-on now for mankind to survive, many of the measures that have been taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are actually good for our planet. By being forced to stay at home, people travel less, drive less, fly less, shop less, (possibly) eat less and so on. If you don’t believe that this has an impact, please have a look at these two articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2020/03/03/coronavirus-nasa-reveals-how-cinas-lockdown-drastically-reduced-pollution/#67b4ef782a75 and https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/14/coronavirus-satellite-data-shows-italy-s-pollution-plummet-amid-covid-19-lockdown
The other thing to know is that “coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people ‘’ (Source: WHO). Interesting isn’t it? And, by the way, do you remember bird flu, swine flu, mad cow’s disease? Where I am going with this is that humankind is and will continue to be faced with a force we can’t beat, and it (has been) is telling us something. If long term we want to continue to exist as a species we have to adapt to the signals nature is sending us, because, before we know it, nature will strike back. Perhaps not always in the direct way (e.g. extreme weather) we are used to, but in a much more subtle way as we are finding out at the moment.
The only way forward for us as humankind is to change our behaviors now, something which we should have already done a long time ago. It all starts with our relationship with our planet, its various species and natural resources. We have to question and address our sources of energy, origins of our food, why and how we move around and all habits we have adopted without thinking about the consequences. Whereas for many people this may sound like an enormous threat and generate fear, it is actually a huge opportunity. Rather than clutching to the past, now is the time to put all our habits into question and collectively decide what habits we need to change as human beings at the mercy of mother nature for the sake of a better world for today and generations to come.
This requires leadership for the common good and cooperation as beautifully illustrated in this article https://time.com/5803225/yuval-noah-harari-coronavirus-humanity-leadership/. If your prime motivation is fear then you should be afraid of anyone who is in denial of climate change, the seriousness what we are experiencing today, blaming others, or that this will be best solved in isolation, particularly if they are (political) leaders in your country. My suggestion for you is to educate yourself by listening to the science and vote these political leaders out. If you are motivated by a personal mission, purpose and meaning, the question I suggest you pose yourself every day is “what behaviors will I change today to positively impact the planet I inhabit?”. Mother Nature is sending us subtle messages, are you listening and acting? By the way, Mother Nature will survive, the real question is, will humankind?