COVID-19 Indicates the Essentials of Dignified Living
The recent worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has placed us face to face with the ferocity of Gaia, prompting us to introspect — to reverse the wanton way of our life in enjoying the material world. Can 7.8 billion population sustain in the culture of consumerism, with unbounded material production activities in the pursuit of 'go as you like' actions, putting pressure on the ecological and environmental balance of the earth?
The appearance of the virus at this juncture hence came to be termed by many ( Gatti, 2020; Poudel et al 2020; Gourinchas, 2020) as the nature’s negative feedback to turn the things right. In the words of R.C Gatti –the planet has become sick of us and now it tries to make us sick. The pandemic is the aftermath of Gaia’s pro-activeness to self regulate its system or a mere coincidence at this rat race and restless competitive human existence.
Gaia —The Natural Capital
“Gaia” is the ‘mother earth’ named after the Greek Goddess. The Gaia is the super ecosystem, a composite of diverse micro ecosystems like oceans, rivers, ponds, forests, mountains etc. containing diverse biotic and a-biotic resources. GAIA is self regulating and self perpetuating mechanism. The entire ecosystem is governed by the delicate balance of carbon, water and other gases. The fine tuned natural law produces ideal conditions that make life on earth possible.
Natural Law dictates the interconnected actions and reactions of the living organisms. This results in a dynamic process of balancing, interaction and feedback loop operating among different species of living objects. Back in 2003 Lenton et. al. wrote (a) although there is a state of thermodynamic atmospheric disequilibrium owing to the activities of life, the aspects of its composition are remarkably stable (b) the conditions at the surface of the Earth are usually at the near optimal state for the dominant organisms (c) life has persisted for over 3.8 billion years despite increasing solar luminosity and variable exchange of matter with the inner Earth. (d) the Earth system has time and again revived through self regulating mechanisms from enormous disturbances.
The Present Imbalance — Why Gaia is Sick?
Carbon captured in fossil fuels burnt, released, and overloaded the atmosphere. Hence, the imbalance. Over loading of chemicals manufactured in the processes since the 18th century, without regard to nature’s self regulating law has resulted in deforestation, disposal of wastes from human activities, poisonous natural water bodies, destruction of land’s fertility. Human intervention has led to loss of species, locust invasion, diseased plants, arsenic and fluoride infested ground water aquifers, vector borne disease, toxic air pollution— all leading to a sick eco-system.
In the words of Picasso “If we can relearn to value and respect Gaia, God the Mother, we may know the honour of contributing to the balance that supports life rather than instability that threatens it”.
We are the last generation that can still reverse the course. Education, investing and repairing the damage rests on this generation and this generation only.
Post COVID-19 Recovery Can Reduce Consumerism and Revive Gaia
COVID-19 brought into limelight one unique, but common realization for those who are living the life of plenty — non-essential material possessions is not essential for living a dignified life.
The post- COVID-19 conversation should hail the encouragement of resource re-direction towards meeting the essential needs of meeting of 50% of 7.8 billion who are deprived of the essentials of a dignified living.
While traditional mass knowledge producers are looking for putting old wine in a new bottle, the wisdom of Gaia provokes us to re-imagine and produce COVID-19 Societal Self-regulatory Recovery path.
According to living planet report (2010), myopic vision of nature, deposits of carbon rich fuels and blindness to all other bounty has led to all undesirable consequences:
(a) Habitat loss due to rampant conversion of forest land for agriculture, aquaculture, industrial or urban use .
(b) Depleted stock of biodiversity through over exploitation. between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of forest, according to the World Bank—an area larger than South Africa ( Nunez, 2019)
(c) Pollution from excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, mining waste, urban and industrial effluents etc
(d) Crop loss due to invasive species, infestation of predators and parasites
(e) Climate change due to burning of fossil fuel and massive deforestation
(f) Indigenous communities and many local communities who lived with nature for ages are retaliating the colonization impact
(g) Ground water extraction has been at the rate of 982km3 /year (NGWA, 2020).
Biodiversity has declined by about 30 per cent between 1970 and 2007; and with business usual practices, 2.8 planets will be needed by 2050 to provide for consumption and to store carbon generated from combustion of fossil fuels, land use change and chemical processes. Humanity’s footprint had been about 2.7 gha per person while biocapacity only 1.8 gha per person with resulting in ecological overshoot by about 50%. Current projections indicate a CO2 concentration between 600 and 1000 ppm by the year 2100 which is likely to change the biology of invasive agricultural diseases, insects and weeds (IPCC, 2007). Big question is how long can we afford to neglect this scale of adverse natural phenomena that threaten our sustainability?
At this rate of extraction the balancing mechanism is considerably lost and in her urgency to bring about balancing mechanisms, we experience her fury in the form of adverse natural events like wild fire, flood, pestilence, famine, storms, global warming etc.
The Pathway Forward
1. Re-build and educate a larger society aware of the regenerative capacity of Gaia.
2. Re-think of Natural Capital that needs servicing to maintain clean air and clean water.
3. Re-define the use of Natural Capital that provide minerals, woods, food.
4. Re-develop the science of Natural Capital that regulates daily temperature and rainfall patterns.
5. Re-imagine the amenity services of Natural capital with its mountain peaks like Himalayas, Denali, Alps, ocean and coasts provide.
Need of the hour is to educate economists and researchers with environmental economics, ecological economics, bio-economics, but also urgently needed for company executives, NGOs, decision makers, policy makers, bankers, investors, national accounts departments to know how to correct distortion in economic progress accounting, greening of GDP accounting, correct distortion in market prices, government regulations and work with communities to empower them for keeping Gaia healthy and productive with natural regulatory mechanism.
Soumyendra Kishore Datta
Christina Nunez(2019) Climate 101, Deforestation, National Geographic, Feb 7
National Ground Water Association (2020) Facts About Global Groundwater Usage
Padam Bahadur Poudel*, Mukti Ram Poudel1 , Aasish Gautam, Samiksha Phuyal, Chiran Krishna Tiwari, Nisha Bashyal, ShilaBashyal, (2020), COVID-19 and its Global Impact on Food and Agriculture, Journal of Biology Today's World ; 9(5): 221.
Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas2020) Flattening the Pandemic and Recession Curves, Policy Brief 23:econfip,
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (2020) Coronavirus Outbreak Is a Symptom of Gaia's Sickness, Ecol Modell.
Timothy M. Lenton and David M. Wilkinson(2003), Developing the Gaia Theory. A Response to the Criticisms of Kirchner and Volk, Climatic Change 58(1) · May
US energy Information Administration www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/global_oil.php(2020), Short-term energyoutlook.