COVID-19 has upended life as we know it at an extraordinary pace without any warning.
And unlike other global catastrophes that we have inflicted upon ourselves, like the World Wars, nuclear bombs, and the climate-led devastations, there seems no human intervention at the root of this calamity.
So, is nature playing a cruel trick on us this time around? Quite the contrary—it‘s more likely that it’s trying to put us back to our default settings. The evidence is certainly hard to miss.
The pandemic has paused us
The pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill within a mere few days—streets were deserted, transportation was halted, and shops all around the world shuttered. It seemed like someone has pushed the pause button on mankind.
How would you have reacted two years back if you were told of a future where travel is banned, businesses are closed, and billions of people are confined to their homes in almost every country on the planet? No one could have imagined it, let alone think it’s practically possible.
And yet the world has paused.
For centuries, we have worked tirelessly to build the most sophisticated and technologically advanced civilization that has ever lived on this planet. So perhaps this is nature’s way of telling us to stop and catch our breath.
And the blurred lines between personal and work lives have led many people to live in increased emotional isolation. But suddenly nature has forced us to spend more time with our families and rebuild relationships.
According to one study, parents spend just 24 minutes more with their kids than with their phones.
The pandemic has also made us more mindful. It has forced us to look up from our phones and to look around. Our senses have suddenly become alive — we know when someone around us coughs, wipes their nose, reaches out to touch something. We now notice every single detail. And as we’re forced to a standstill, our awareness of our surroundings has intensified like never before.
It’s teaching us conscious consumption
Every year, 30%–40% of the food supply is wasted in the US. That’s a staggering amount, especially considering that 40 million Americans are living in hunger.
This insatiable consumerism is not just limited to food — it extends to clothes, electronics, and entertainment, among many other things. And as we pursue abundance and limitless consumption, we’ve turned a blind eye to wastage.
But the pandemic-led disruptions to supply chains and product availability have forced us to rethink our consumption habits.
It has pushed us from limitless consumerism to conscious consumption.
It has taught us to appreciate what we have, to consume more mindfully, and to make the best out of our limited resources.
It’s forcing us back to cultivation
Victory Gardens became popular during the World Wars, as people started growing their own produce at home. It was promoted by governments not only to supplement the limited food stocks but also to boost the morale of their citizens.
This helped families in war-stricken countries to become self-sufficient. It also kept them occupied and distracted from the worries and fears of the ongoing war.
And now Victory Gardens are back. Some governments are even actively promoting them.
With limited access to food at times and worries of a potential food shortage, more and more people have taken up gardening in the midst of the pandemic. They’re using their lawns, balconies, and even transforming their limited urban living spaces with vertical planters and roof gardens.
Agriculture has been an important part of human civilizations for thousands of years. And in our ultra-modern civilization that’s marked by a digitally driven information age, it seems nature is forcing us back to those essential grassroots skills for self-sufficiency.
It’s giving us an opportunity to right the wrongs we’ve inflicted on nature
When the pandemic emerged, businesses shuttered, people went into isolation, traffic drooped to zero, air travel halted, and manufacturing plants came to a standstill.
And the result? Air pollution levels dramatically declined in the most polluted countries in the world.
India, which claims 21 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, reported a massive drop of 71% in air pollution in Delhi, just one week after the lockdown.
Take a look at how the air cleared between January and March in China, the biggest contributor to global warming.
And just six months before that, the world couldn’t even picture streets devoid of traffic. Countries couldn’t imagine slowing down industrial activities. And governments grappled to find solutions to decelerate climate change.
But within a few weeks, our climate impact was dramatically reversed. Nature has shown us that it’s still not too late to make course corrections and save our planet and ourselves.
And now we’re given the opportunity to right our wrongs and rethink how we could responsibly move forward.
It’s reminding us of our resilience
Humans are a resilient species. We have evolved and survived for over 300,000 years.
But our pursuit of comforts and luxuries has made us fragile creatures. We now take elevators instead of the stairs. We walk 3 miles on a treadmill instead of hiking in nature. Many of us have forgotten the strength and resilience of mankind. And with the pandemic-led disruptions, nature has created an opportunity to remind us of our ability to survive and thrive, as our endurance is tested.
Of course, some are affected more than others. Many small business owners were severely impacted as they were forced to shut down for a prolonged period. But some have reinvented how they do business. The old corner shop down my road, for instance, now takes orders over the phone and delivers goods to homes. He doesn’t have the resources to build and run an online store, but he’s getting more orders than he could handle right now.
Similarly, many people have chosen to fight back to survive this global catastrophe. And they will come out on top. Because we are stronger than we think. We just need a little reminder now and then.
As we have reached a new peak in technology-driven development and have comfortably positioned ourselves as a superior civilization, it seems nature is making us humble again. It’s reminding us of our limits, and the fundamental values that made us human.
So, while we plan our survival through the course of this pandemic, we also need to assess the dramatic changes required to continue our survival as a civilization once life gets back to normalcy.
We certainly cannot get back to where we were, to our old ways of being. We have made far too many sacrifices and too many people have given up their lives so we can learn these hard-hitting lessons from mother nature.