26 November, 2020

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How To Use The Corona Pandemic To Develop A Better World 

By Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Prof. Lasantha Pethiyagoda

Those evil empires that wrested control of the resources in poor countries with sheer might and military technologies have been trumped by the SARS Cov-2 virus, even as biological weapons and indeed chemical weapons are being perfected to kill off the poor in poor countries in their insatiable greed for power and wealth. With relative calm, poor countries with far less health resources have been spared much of Nature’s wrath, in comparison to Western Europe and North America.

The self-proclaimed beacons of democracy that pontificate to the rest of humanity of their exceptionalism have been hit hardest. To them, it would seem like a war, stealthily foisted on them by a lesser people. They know full well that covid-19 is a unique opportunity for the world to awake from its induced stupor where instigated wars of choice returned great bounty to war-mongers and kept the military-industrial-complex running while killing off poor people.

There is now a great danger that people will again yearn for peace. Peace does not pay any dividends to the ruling elites. It merely has an elusively tempting meaning for ordinary people whose taxes are expropriated by the rich. Covid-19 has put a dent in this grand scheme of exploitation.

The very nations that have wrought havoc on poor countries over the last few centuries have by far, decimated more than three quarters of the planet’s wild fauna and flora. Whereas farmed poultry account for more than two-thirds of all bird-life on the planet, nearly two-thirds of mammalian life are livestock and a minute fraction roam the forests and plains. This represents a gross imbalance purely for the benefit of humans, a vast majority of them living in countries now severely affected by covid-19.

For a world that is dominated by economics and finance, this virus has perhaps vainly attempted to teach the keepers of the planet where their priorities should be. The virus compels us to examine Nature with far more respect and gratitude than has been accorded it ever since market capitalism took over. In the weeks of almost total lockdown, air quality has improved, the birds are singing again, wild animals are more prominent and not beleaguered by constant human engagement. What regular international climate conferences could not achieve, Nature has returned to the natural environment in all its glory.

The once beautiful blue planet, with much of the land area in green is no more. Industrial demand has destroyed vast swathes of pristine forest, with billions of tons of non-renewable fossil resources extracted every year, to drive a modern economy that consumes for the sake of a wholly decadent lifestyle that treats with utter contempt, notions of austerity or social responsibility.

Factory developed fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides are churned out by the billions of tons, using chemicals that destroy the soil’s vital micro-organisms, making it infertile for centuries to come while enabling bumper crops that are loaded with cancer-causing residual chemicals. While the farming communities in developed countries become millionaires, poor subsistence farmers in third-world countries poison their citizens hoping to earn a livable income. Entire ecosystems are permanently destroyed by making these environments dangerously toxic for humans, animals and plants. Covid-19 is making these people more desperate as the yoke of poverty foisted on them by the ruthless mercenaries and their political sponsors seek their pounds of flesh.

Livestock and poultry are fed antibiotics and growth hormones that result in exponential growth in flesh mass and a reduction in bone growth, rendering them cripple until they are slaughtered for the highest productivity possible. When ingested, they promote new growths in humans, usually of cancers. Organic farming using natural methods is deemed too costly and time-consuming to satisfy their urgent need for profits.

Humans, in their arrogance and assumption of superiority, confer on themselves the right to destroy the planet at will, in the name of personal interest or corporate profit. Despite all the efforts of the non-governmental organisations or lobbies around the world, business has trumped ethics and moral responsibility. Has Covid-19 changed the status quo? Not at all, or not yet. Like race horses rearing to hear the starter’s signal, these marauding vermin are ominously waiting to resume their plunder.

Traditional economics and finance have to be set aside in the name of a better planet. These fields of study stemmed largely from the capitalism that industrialised powerful nations foisted on the world, in furtherance of their preponderant status. These principles have no practical value in the face of the most dangerous pandemic in living memory. While humanity is important, the virus has taught us that humans are not the final arbiters of how the planet should operate. The keepers of the planet have to surrender their exalted status to a humble RNA molecule’s admonition while it dictates terms.

Large businesses like supermarkets which sold everything must not be tolerated anymore. Instead, home gardening must ensure that people grow their own healthy food as much as possible. This should send a strong message to farmers not to play with people’s lives in maximizing profits at their cost. Co-operatives must be encouraged to help each other in communities, cutting out exploitative trades that thrived in individualistic societies.

Now is the best time to use the corona pandemic to usurp oppressive states and gain the people’s freedom from political parasites, marketers, religionists and mythology-promoters. While the pain inflicted by the bitter lesson is still smarting, the people must refuse to spread hatred and must embrace peace. Ruling elites who thrive on fomenting disharmony and fear must lose their grip on the people. That way, they will surely lose their relevance while the people will strengthen their immunity to manufactured fear and hatred, thus making for a better world, thanks to the corona pandemic.

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Latest comments

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    Prof. Pethiyagoda

    OK, so the Corona virus is a blessing in disguise. The pandemic has given the opportunity for the world to be a better place. There is no pollution because there are no vehicles on the road & no manufacturing with people staying indoors. Nature has done what the world could not achieve.

    I live in UK & as far as I am aware, there is much concern about the environment, food safety & animal welfare in farms. Supermarket chains promote free range produce & source suppliers which confirm to eco friendly & sustainable sources. This is the European standard, quite different from US, perhaps, even other countries, such as, Australia, SL included. In SL, there are thousands of deaths from renal failure, uncontrolled use of pesticides & general unhealthy foods & life style, even without the pandemic, which the health services of SL have largely ignored, so would there be any change for the better now that our eyes were opened by the pandemic? Will wild animals, such as, elephants, be free to roam in their natural habitat instead of cultivators & property developers encroaching into nature reserves? If it was nature, god, karma, or whatever one believes in, who was responsible for the virus, spared the poor countries but was probably not considering the resulting misery & hardship on the poorer society brought about by lockdowns & curfews. Prof., it’s a make believe Utopian world you are suggesting.

  • 2
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    Dear Prof

    Thank you for the article capturing all “elements” of the argument aganist human “greed” that has gone unchecked for centuries. Even after all what we have witnessed with regard to the “rape and plunder” of our environment and the dire consequences we continue unabated the “destruction” of Mother Nature ever more.. the so called “industrial” investments to meet the bare minimum need of all of us (food/shelter/cloth) no longer sustainable because of the greed.

    We in Sri Lanka has a great opportunity to make the paradigm shift required at this juncture by uniting as people to set a new path (not just for us but for the entire globe) that is sustainable in nature and based on Science and Technology/Simple living for changing the existing order.

    The article on CT by Ayomi Irugalbandara titled “Importance Of Social Responsibility Skills For Sri Lankan Students”
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/importance-of-social-responsibility-skills-for-sri-lankan-students/

    is very appropriate now than ever and we should include all the issues you touched based in a comprehensive way in our education system too for our children to understand their challenges (as specifically captured in your article) as they grow up taking ownership for their cohabitation with nature in a sustainable way.

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