Dr. King reminded us, “We are one Earth Family on one planet, healthy in our diversity and interconnectedness.”
Not sure when I first heard of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but it caught my attention when the CDC said of the outbreak in China that for us it’s not if-but when the epidemic will strike the United States. Soon states were looking to the White House for directions, and the White House looked to Fox “News.” Cities prepared setting up quarantine centers, and the President appointed Mr. Pence to be Coronavirus Czar. This would have been fine if either man believed in science.
Do you watch Animal Planet or some other animal show? We do. But lately, when Tim suggests a nature show to relax, I counter with some excuse offering a different suggestion, like watching some British series that puts us both to sleep.
As the coronavirus cases double and triple, I see a connection between my not wanting to watch nature shows (as I had before) and the pandemic. Watching footage of hungry polar bears wasting away because of warmer temperatures bothers me. Black and brown bears coming into towns for food because the forests and rivers they once called home have been cut down and polluted turns my stomach.
Wild animals carry viruses that don’t harm them but can kill humans unable to fight off foreign viruses. Just as the Spanish Flu didn’t originate in the Iberian Peninsula, the evil Chinese lab theory nonsense from our President can be put to rest. Researchers suggest that most likely, the virus came from bats. Remember Mad Cow disease? Botulism? Avian Influenza? Animals to humans. We don’t give this enough attention, the correlation of our behavior to new diseases. Instead, we continue to treat nature’s resources as our personal resource to use in any way we choose. We invade homes of other species, cut down trees with no thought of tomorrow, and manipulate plants and animals for commercial profits. The coronavirus pandemic is rooted and fueled by this false belief that no matter our behavior, Mother Earth will continue to love and take care of us.
On the other hand, we accept that sometimes our offsprings make terrible decisions and we have to let them pay the consequences. Is that’s what happening here? Mother Nature saying, “you created this mess, so deal with it.”
The coronavirus is connected to the extinction of species and human contribution to climate change. This emergency is the result of an economic system of limitless growth where GDP is king. Our “business as usual” systematically ignores planetary boundaries, the ecosystem, and species integrity.
Coronavirus is a in-our-face consequence, but what’s happening behind our back is of even greater consequence. Our farms have become industrial monocultures producing nutritionally empty goods. The food we eat is degraded through industrial processing with man-made chemicals. According to the Food for Health Manifesto, “over the past 50 years, 300 new pathogens have emerged as we destroy the habitat of species and manipulate them for profits.” The World Health Organization: “The Ebola virus moved from wild animals to humans. ‘the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.'” (Let’s remember this and take Dr. Fauci’s recommendation never to return to hand-shaking.)
My friend, Boston Dorothy, sent me an email, “This certainly is an unprecedented time that gives all of us time to ponder the importance of our connections and perhaps make needed changes.” On the board of a local community garden, I argued that spraying Roundup around the 200 boxes made it a toxic garden, not an organic garden, the gardeners reason to pay to grow their vegetables. No one on the board saw it my way. But sometimes it takes something big for us to change. Could this time in history be a turning point?
Our willingness to accept responsibility for how these epidemics, sprouting with higher frequency, will also address obesity that’s spreading around the world. Dr. Vandana Shiva writes, “A systems approach to health care in times of the corona crisis would address not just the virus, but also how new epidemics are spreading as we invade into the homes of other beings. It also needs to address the co-morbidity conditions related to non-communicable chronic diseases which are spreading due to non-sustainable, anti-nature, unhealthy industrial food systems. As we wrote in the manifesto Food For Health of the International Commission on the Future of Food, we need to discard ‘policies and practices that lead to the physical and moral degradation of the food system while destroying our health and endangering the planet’s ecological stability, and endangering the biogenetic survival of life on the planet.'”
The April AARP Bulletin (page 38) features Denis Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. Baby-boomers responded, and in the years that followed several legislations emerged, including Clean Air Amendments, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act.
On September 11, 1997, President Bill Clinton named the Detroit River, where our family would sometimes get together, one of 14 American Heritage Rivers. Rivers were selected because the local communities had specific plans to restore the environment and preserve the history of the river. There is still work to be done, but over the last few years, whitefish, walleyes, bald eagles, and beavers (not seen in the river for near a century) have returned. Human beings can be self-focused and destructive, but when we work together for the common good there is much hope for our planet.
Biodiversity richness in our woodlands, diverse species, and farms growing a variety of crops will make our planet and all living things healthier. It’s why Dr. Greger, the creator of nutritionfacts.org, reminds us to eat organic food of many colors minus animal products.
We CAN find little ways to help Mother Earth right where we live. Plant wildflowers around ponds and use native plants in landscape. Use non-toxic methods to control weeds and increase tolerance for less than perfectly groomed grounds. Impeccably groomed, like monocultures, lacks biodiversity—a pretty face with no heart. The reduction in moving cars and trains, and people staying home during our current health emergency, reduced Earth’s vibrations (seismic noise) and calmed its upper crust’s movements. And there has been a very notable reduction in air pollution worldwide. Whether we change our behavior to preserve our biodiversity in the future is a story yet to be written.