Could this actually be some form of retribution for all we’ve done as a species? Well, not quite. As far as we know, nature is not a conscious entity. Our beloved planet does not have a brain. “She” does not get angry or sad or happy, nor is “she” eligible for any sort of counseling for depression. Regardless of what many fables, religions, books and movies have told us, it is highly unlikely that nature in itself is consciously “angry” at the human race.
However, there is truth to the old adage that “everything happens for a reason”, just not in the mystical way this saying is often used. “For a reason” in the sense that it’s very likely that someone who gets a kick out of speeding down the highway while drunk will eventually have a terrible accident, and either perish or end up in seriously bad condition (possibly taking an innocent person, or an entire family, along with them). This happens not because invisible conscious forces get a kick out of punishing drunken idiots, but because we often put common sense on the backburner and brainlessly attempt to defy the laws of physics.
Contrary to the plethora of conspiracy theories floating around the internet, and in our imaginations, it’s highly unlikely COVID-19 was created in a lab by some evil group of individuals bent on controlling the population. But it is equally unlikely to be the product of some naturally occurring and unpreventable random event.
What’s happening now is much more complex than a maniac behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle. But it basically boils down to the same concept of what happens when we’re overly confident in our reckless actions, this time in a much more collective, and insidious, manner.
Our species has been ravaging the planet for over 200,000 years or so. But our destruction of the natural world was injected with two astronomically high doses of steroids with the advent of the agricultural revolution and then, a few thousand years later, the industrial revolution.
Today, animal agriculture is responsible for the majority of Amazon rainforest destruction. It’s also the leading driver of species extinction on the entire planet because it consumes so much land, while using 520 times more water than hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a controversial method of extracting oil from underground because of its excessive consumption of water. Not only is it one of the most environmentally destructive industries on the planet, it is also among the cruelest. And to add to the list, it’s the leading cause of zoonotic diseases- those that spread from animals to humans-, both directly and indirectly.
This appears to be the case with COVID-19, likely to have originated in bats. When animal habitats are destroyed, usually to make room for livestock or the crops used to feed them, wild animals like bats and rats find themselves more vulnerable to starvation. Their immune systems weaken, and they are forced to cram together as their environment has shrunk or disappeared completely. A situation where malnourished rodents now in much closer proximity to each other is a breeding ground for sicknesses and new viruses to emerge and spread.
But habitat destruction is only part of the story. Nearly all of the modern epidemics, including HIV, MERS, SARS, and most likely COVID-19, came from animals, more specifically, our unhealthy relationship with them. The H1N1 flu virus of 2009, otherwise known as “swine flu”, originated from US pig farms. Throughout many parts of the world, these animals are kept in crowded barns where they stand in their own feces. Often subject to horrific abuse, pigs raised in such squalid conditions are more susceptible to diseases. The same conditions apply to most farm animals on factory farms, and the reason antibiotics are used more on farm animals than on people, and why big pharma, the industry that puts forth the most aggressive lobbying efforts, wants to make sure people continue to eat meat.
Indeed, drug resistant bacteria are a major cause for concern when in many countries 80% of antibiotics are used on livestock instead of humans. But global pandemics, usually stemming from the same industry, are an even bigger deal, one that is of our own making, not a necessity in the least but the product of tradition and taste preferences.
As of the moment I write this article, COVID-19 has infected almost 2 million people worldwide and killed close to 114,00 while overwhelming hospitals and wreaking havoc on the global economy.
The reason this is happening may seem complex, which is why it’s easier to believe more simplified conspiracy theories about its origin. Personifying nature and convincing ourselves that “she” is taking revenge may also provide comfort. But even though the scientific consensus may sound complicated, it all boils down to one factor. We as a species have been getting a kick out of speeding down the highway while abandoning all forms of reason, logic, and compassion for the natural world.
If nature is indeed a conscious force, let’s see if she can sober us up, give us a spanking and bring us back to our senses.
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