The future of life on Earth depends on our ability to see the sacred where others see only the common. – John Denver
Admittedly, as my best friend often loves to point out, I am a tree-hugging liberal. I was raised by divorced parents from opposite sides of the United States, and the only things they had in common were love of John Denver’s music and a love of nature. For Mom, it was (and is) the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina; for Dad it was (and is) the lakes and mountains of the Cascades in Oregon.
It is against this backdrop that I view what’s happening in the world today. No, I’m not talking about the mass panic (perhaps justified) over the COVID-19 pandemic; rather, I am taking a step back in Ishmael fashion and looking at the bigger picture. The Coronavirus appears to me to be the latest and strongest battle being waged between the human race and the rest of Earth’s global ecosystem.
There has long been a war being waged between the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the agrarian lifestyle. It dates back to early Biblical times when the clash was personified in the fight between Cain and Abel. The farmer, Cain, kills Abel, the shepherd, which is symbolic of the struggle between those who wanted to live off the land sustainably (Daniel Quinn refers to those people as Leavers in his book Ishmael) and those who wanted to own land and “lock up the food,” (referred to as Takers in Quinn’s world).
The death of Abel was foreshadowing at its finest, in ways the Jewish storytellers of old could never have possibly imagined. While there have been may examples of the years, the one that may be most familiar to Americans is what happened when white Europeans “discovered” the very continent on which the United States of America now exists. There was already a beautiful, flourishing and utterly sustainable “Leaver” culture thriving here, but the Europeans quickly killed that culture off in favor of their own “Taker” way of life.
The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was another notable volley in the war between humans and the Earth. New inventions allowed the consumption of the natural world to accelerate at warp speed, and none more so than that of the internal combustion engine and the automobile. The wholesale release of fossil fuels into the atmosphere was the equivalent of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in terms of the way it has cranked up the intensity of humanity’s war with the Earth.
One of the big problems with our war against the planet is that we don’t always recognize the smaller battles for what they are. Every acre of the Amazon rain forest destroyed in the name of grazing land for cows is a loss for the delicate environment upon which human survival depends. Every piece of the polar icecaps that break off and melts into the warming oceans is a battle lost. Out of control wildfires in California, Tennessee and Australia are all battles lost; every hurricane that wipes out cities along the Gulf Coast is a battle lost; Miami and New Orleans sinking into the ocean, stronger storms across the American Midwest, and even the fact that the two warmest years in the recorded history of our planet have occurred in the past three years are all battles in our war with our own ecosystem.
Taker culture lost all of those battles, and it will most assuredly lose the COVID-19 battle, as well.
According to a recent report, it is very possible, even likely, that COVID-19 has been around for a long time, hidden away in an isolated population of bats. Loss of habitat due to human activities may have forced these bats into areas inhabited by humans, whose immune systems are not as adept at fighting off the virus as those of the bats. The bats have passes the virus along to humans, whose travel habits have allowed it to spread faster than the aforementioned wildfires.
In other words, score another win for Mother Nature in our ongoing war against her.
This particular front line has been particularly savage, not only killing off those infected by the disease, but dismantling the very consumer-based economy which started the war in the first place. World markets have been devastated by the lack of economic activity forced by the spread of COVID-19, and as investors watch the value of their investment plummet, we see the environment beginning to recover fairly quickly from the lack of human activities in highly-affected areas. (For more on that, see my previous post here!) Demonstrably, the worse things get for the human economy, the better things get for the global ecosystem.
As I write this, the number of cases of the coronavirus worldwide has surpassed 300,000 and the death toll is over 13,000. That may not seem like a big deal on a global scale, but when you consider how quickly those number are climbing, there is certainly cause for alarm.
The Taker culture is going to lose its war with Earth’s ecosystem. There is absolutely no way is can do otherwise. It is not possible to kill off millions of species of animals, poison our atmosphere and natural resources and continue to survive. COVID-19 is simply the latest, possibly worst, indication of just how poorly this war is going for us.
Perhaps it’s time to join the other side.