Some people are saying, and I agree, that Covid-19 may have shown a silver lining amidst large-scale deaths and health and economic damages and costs, that it is possible to bring back the integrity of the natural environment through human attitudinal and behavioural changes.
The destruction of natural resources has been going on for centuries all around the world - ever increasingly. The fast worsening climate change is surely a mind-boggling revenge of nature. Science tells us that only few years remain to drastically reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to initiate the process of re-establishing the integrity of nature. Otherwise, human society and even the planet Earth are headed to a now unimaginable catastrophe. In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, with air and other transportation modes virtually at a standstill and other GHG emitting activities performing at significantly lower scales globally, GHG emissions now are down pari passu. A notable improvement in air and water quality and oceanic characteristics has occurred in a matter of weeks. Maybe, coronavirus invasion is a nature's way of telling the humans, through one likely short-term disaster, to understand how to live in harmony with nature and, thereby, avoid annihilation.
Now the question is: can we, humans, get the message in it's true perspective and, as quickly as possible, restructure our consumption and production patterns, particularly of the rich and powerful, and give up destructive competitions for wealth and power nationally and globally? Can humans judge this window of opportunity, arising from Covid-19 pandemic, judiciously and remodel their way of living in order to reestablish harmony with nature? Another element in this is the inherent equality of human beings, which the tiny coronavirus has also powerfully reminded the humanity. Attitudinal and behavioural changes as indicated above should also help overcome the ongoing threat of coronavirus and those of any other viruses that may attack in future. Let me, in what follows, elaborate a bit on the ideas mooted above.
Since coronavirus does not distinguish between the powerful and powerless, wealthy and poor or between people belonging to different religions, it should ideally bring to bear on the upper echelons of society that they cannot get away from being humans and vulnerability to a leveller like coronavirus. In the case of ongoing climate change, the poor and vulnerable are still the most affected but ultimately, in not too distant a future, the whole global society will be shattered. If this prospect was not enough as a sobering influence on the rich-powerful-greedy axis, coronavirus should give them a strong message that nobody will be spared from the nature's revenge.
For reinstitution of the integrity of nature and protection of the human race from nature's revenge in terms of such attacks as climate change and coronavirus invasion, it is essential that economic, social and political arrangements are shaped on the basis of the principles of equity, human freedom and other universal human and social values.
The same approach by all nations, involving staying at home, social distancing, hand-washing, hygienic precautions, wearing of masks, international travel restrictions, personal protection equipment for doctors, nurses and other caregivers, treatment protocols, and so on, to fight off the coronavirus outbreak is a silver lining that a globally agreed approach to an existential crisis is possible. Each country is trying to match the spread of the threat - some more successfully than others. Such a global approach, differentiated by country circumstances, equal to the task has not happened in the case of climate change.
Now the Covid-19 pandemic reminds us as to the universality of vulnerability of human beings and that a coordinated and responsible response is the more effective answer. Can this lesson be applied to combatting climate change and it's impacts to save the humankind and the planet Earth from the looming climate catastrophe? Also, the uniform global response and mutual aid at people's level and between states show that humans are capable of acting sensibly and collectively in the face of a grave danger.
Indeed, a more balanced human society can lead to a return of a more balanced natural environment. In an egalitarian society, there would be social control over politics and the socio-economic paradigm to be pursued. People would want a healthy environment, fresh air, clean water and safe foods and require those in management to comply. They would not allow the greed and hunger for power of a few to play havoc with either social or natural environment. But, in truth, while the rich and powerful may lose their preeminence as a result of the anticipated social transformation, they will be able to live a more tranquil and humanly fulfilling life in this ephemeral world.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad is a senior economist and development thinker.