Wild animals host a large number of viruses which can hop on to humans in close proximity!
This is an intriguing question. Isn’t it! Instantaneously it brings to our mind variable theories that are doing the rounds as to its origin. We immediately want to know and then eliminate the cause of our existing miserable and scary life condition. The novel corona virus or COVID-19 has swept the entire world and has become a pandemic. Man has always taken pride in being the most evolved and intelligent being in the animal hierarchy. Backed by advanced technology and latest research he has felt almost invincible. However, today he feels powerless and hopeless against this fury of nature, which is but a tiny virus. It has infiltrated into our lives at all levels bringing normal life functions to a halt. We are today confined to the safety of our homes to save our lives. Though working from home, we feel stuck and disconnected from our natural environment leading to depression and other psychosomatic diseases. No doubt our confinement brings to the forefront many challenges but it also gives us the much needed time for introspection and contemplation. Has the nature (virus) impacted our lives?
Man by his reckless and unfair actions has been impacting the nature adversely. We have over the years mercilessly and thoughtlessly exploited the natural resources for our needs albeit greed! Today we are repaying for our own actions. Deforestation and habitat encroachment has compelled the wild animals to venture out of their natural habitat and stray into human habitation. There is a continuous demand for exotic and wild products. These sell for a handsome price in the wildlife trade markets. This lures the people to even encroach upon the protected areas and extract wildlife and natural resources. Illegal wildlife trade galvanised by human consumption forces the poor and the needy people to risk their lives to procure them for money. All of these and the illegal wildlife trade brings wild animals into the urban areas and increase the risk of zoonotic diseases hopping from animals to humans. Viruses are known to have high mutation rates and can quickly switch hosts in new ecosystems. In particular, the unregulated nature of illegal wildlife trade provides easy opportunities for pathogens to spread. Ebola, SARS, bird flu and now COVID-19 are all believed to have started as pathogens crossing from animals to humans. Encroachment on plant and animal life by man is fuelling such diseases. This human impact on biodiversity loss may trigger pandemics in future too. Banning of illegal trade of wildlife alone is not the only solution to this problem, it rests with the consumers to revisit their behaviour and choices so that the threatened and protected species are not endangered
In 2012, journalist Jim Robbins wrote a prophetic piece in the New York Times. Disease, he observed, “is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic – they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.”
This year of 2020 was designated by the United Nations as a”Super Year for Nature and Biodiversity”. In the wake of the annihilation caused by COVID-19, this seems prophetic! Perhaps now we will find the time and energy to consider our impact on this planet and its biodiversity. Nature returning to its pristine glory amid the lockdown will bring in public-awareness and focus on changing our behaviour towards our environment. I hope this proves to be a turning point for nature and biodiversity and this year truly becomes the “Super Year for Nature and Biodiversity”
Nothing remains forever and this too shall pass! Many years hence we will remember it as part of history! The question is -How many more pandemics will it take to change our attitude towards Nature? Have we learnt our lesson, of respecting our environment? Will we now stop exploitation of our planet’s biodiversity? Let us not take our environment for granted and use this time to re-assess our actions and make sustainable choices.
I quote here a shloka from the Bhagvad Gita which beautifully explains our eternal consanguinity with Nature:
Devanbhavyatanen te deva bhavyantu vah,
Parasparam bhayantah shreya paramvapsayath.- Shloka 11 Chapter III.
According to this the Nature’s behaviour is nothing but reflection of our own actions. God has given us a beautiful and pleasant world to live and enjoy but man due to his ego and selfish desires disobeys the Universal laws of Nature and creates sorrow. Hence Sri Krishna advises that if we cherish the phenomenal forces of Nature with the spirit of co-operation and co-ordination, then these forces of Nature shall cherish us back. When our behaviour is perfect, Nature shall behave perfectly. When we behave crazy, Nature too will behave crazy. We can invoke the beauty of Nature only by the beauty of our own living!