Our experience with the new coronavirus is wreaking havoc with our normal way of life but, in addition to all else, it confronts us with an obligation to reassess our relationship with Nature.
For the entire history of humankind, we regarded Nature as a dangerous force from which we sought shelter. Our ancient ancestors were hapless victims of cold, hunger, predation, and infection that untamed Nature regularly delivered. Their only tools of survival were their ingenuity and their desperate prayers to placate the imagined forces driving it.
Only recently in the scientific age were people systematic in their handling of Nature by studying it and revealing its ways with careful and deliberate measurements. We domesticated wild animals, crossbred crops, dammed rivers, and fought disease.
We were so successful in having tamed Nature, in fact, that now we tend to see Nature as beaten, abused, and endangered. We feel sorry for it and try to protect pieces for enjoyment and recreation through charitable 501(c)(3) organizations.
It is in times like these that we get disabused of our presumptions. It is in times like these that we are reminded that we are not exceptional after all, but charitable 501(c)(3) organizations.
It is in times like these that we get disabused of our presumptions. It is in times like these that we are reminded that we are not exceptional after all, but instead that we are merely one element in a broad ecosystem, and that we remain subject to the intransigent laws that rule all of Nature. We find ourselves to be but one herd of grazing animals with a predator in our midst.
Nature once again looks sinister and cold. But now, for the most part, the other living beings on earth are at risk from human causes. This era, often referred to as the “Anthropocene” because it is so dominated by humans, has seen people alter the landscape, consume the large part of earth’s bounty, and foul the air and water. It is speculated that climate change may have contributed to the emergence of the SARS CoV 2 virus.
We will conquer this virus and eventually, we will all go back to our offices and work sites. We will leave the Zoom conferences and abandon the 6-foot perimeters. But I hope that people will also learn from this singular and sudden experience—which impacted all the people of all the nations, continents, and ethnic identities, of which no one was immune or exempt, and which set us all back on our heels in apprehension—that we are all equally part of this lonely planet, and that by preserving the earth and our companion species, we will preserve ourselves.