Whenever a pandemic strikes humanity and results in the loss of human lives on this planet, we struggle for survival as a human race. What we need to ask is whether the virus is threatening humans or are humans threatening the planet?
In the process of natural selection, the current Covid19 virus is getting support from nature to exist; a possible reason for its fast mutation that is making it difficult for humans to invent a vaccine against infection. Is this a sign that nature is committed to wipe out the human race from this planet because of the severe damage it has done to its environment? This is the most important question that we must ask ourselves today.
We- the humans have progressed very fast in the past 100 years by consuming the natural resources recklessly for greed without any respect for the environment. Several natural disasters in the past have caused a colossal loss of human lives and billions of dollars in costs, but these warning signals were never taken seriously by the mankind. Human concern for global warming is well documented in the history around late 19th century but it was not until 1930, when Thomas Edison first promoted the idea of renewable energy to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Global warming viewpoint caught up in the 1970s, and then by 1990s it was confirmed that greenhouse gases emitted by the human activity were the cause of extreme change in climate.
The primary greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and ozone. Use of chloroflorocarbons and hydro-chloroflorocarbons used in refrigerants, propellants, solvents and foam-blowing agents, deplete the ozone and cause holes in the ozone layer which result in increased UV radiation levels on the earth’s surface. When trees are cut down and burned or allowed to rot, their stored carbon is also released into the air as carbon dioxide. Deforestation is therefore another major cause to climate change due to the decreasing number of trees available to capture increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Methane in the earth’s atmosphere is a strong gas with much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Human activities emitting methane are natural gas leaks and raising of livestock. All the greenhouse gases are also emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, electricity generation and power plants, deforestation to produce food for raising the livestock, red meat production- mainly beef and lamb, manufacturing activity, transportation, waste, air and water pollution. All these cause global warming.
All of the above facts have been known to the humans for a long time now, and yet their mindless activity to exploit the natural resources continue to harm the environment causing increased global warming resulting in frequent natural disasters due to weather change. There have been famines, heavy rainfalls, flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, mud-slides, avalanches, earthquakes, heat-waves, forest fires and the frequency, volatility and damage caused by these natural disasters has only increased over time. Millions of lives and billions of dollars have been lost due to these disasters too; yet the humanity did not wake-up to stop harming the environment.
Covid19 virus has origins in the exotic meats market in Wuhan. Human activity continues to invade the space belonging to other species on planet due to its greed for more. Many of the other species have become extinct or are close to extinction due to excessive pollution or mindless deforestation. There are volumes of research papers across the world that confirm that the health of our ecosystem on which we and all the other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. Extinctions have happened throughout our planet’s history but the current accelerated pace of extinction is the quickest over the past 10 million years. 1 There are over 1 million species under threat of extinction today due to harmful environmental impact on account of human activity.
Researchers have established that the interaction between humans, plants, animals and the environment have an important impact on the biological architecture of our planet and any disruption can have serious cascading effect on human lives. The human civilization has grown at the cost of environment at an accelerated pace over the past hundred years and the damage caused to environment is today causing a threat to its own survival. About hundred years ago most of the so-called developed countries of today were poor or not so well-off countries as they are today. Few of them were poorer than the poorest countries today. The history of human progress as we see today, is just about 100 years old. While the literacy rates, number of people above poverty line, child mortality rates and the average human age is far higher today; the harm that the humans have caused during this journey of economic growth is becoming a major threat to their own existence.
It is estimated that if the global warming is not arrested today, then by the year 2050 there may not be any human life left on earth.3 While pandemics based on a particular type of virus and natural disasters due to extreme weather are unrelated, they are both signals and warning signs from the mother nature for humans to raise their consciousness to be mindful of their activity to include care for environment and respect the right to exist of other species on this planet. While global warming gives us thirty more years to correct our course; a serious pandemic has the power to threaten the human existence at any time before. It is therefore high time that we learnt to stop being greedy about growing our economies mindlessly. It is time that humanity learnt the difference between need and greed and educated itself to live harmoniously with other species while simultaneously arresting any further damage caused by the emission of greenhouse gases on account of its activities on this planet.
Professor Arun Sehgal(Visiting Faculty for International Marketing and Global Business Expansion to ICT Mumbai, Leading Management Schools and The World Trade Center, Mumbai)