The Earth is Alive and COVID-19 is her Revenge on Humankind…
The world is currently experiencing one of the most alarming health crisis. However, it is not the first.
Epidemics did not wait for globalization or the coronavirus crisis to spread across the globe. Since Antiquity, diseases have decimated entire populations in the space of a few months or even days, triggering the terror of the inhabitants in the face of an unknown evil. We had to face various plagues, an epidemic of cholera, the Spanish and Asian flu or AIDS, which is still raging today. Coronavirus, even though it is one of the most publicized pandemics, maybe because we live in a media age, is not the first the Earth has been through.
So in a world where we have access to all types of theory, messages and interpretation regarding the current situation, I would like to add my grain of salt. To make sure you follow me, we will need to see some concept.
But first, let’s learn some Greek mythology, shall we?
A quick mythology recap
I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology, its consistency to tell stories and the way in which we can draw links with today’s reality. For the environmentalist that I am, one of the myths that interested me the most is that of Gaia.
In the beginning, there were three major deities. The wide-bosomed Gaia: Earth, Tartarus: the Underworld, and Eros: Love. Gaia is considered one of the first Greek deities and one of the favourite. She represents nature, the Earth. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess. She gave birth to the sky “Uranus’, and to all of its stars, but also to the primordial sea gods. She also engendered the high mountains “Ourea” and “Pontos”, the barren sea, with harmonious waves. These are the basis of all creation on Earth.
Gaia is the very personification of Earth in the cosmogony of Hesiod, and she is the maternal ancestor of divine races and monsters. Among the Latins, we find the equivalent in Terra Mater or Tellus. She was commonly represented as a gigantic woman because of the tremendous creative power attributed to her. To summarise, Gaia is a goddess, a mother.
Now let’s move from mythology to science.
Discover the Gaia Hypothesis
Have you ever heard of the Gaia hypothesis? I bet not. The Gaia hypothesis, also known as the Gaia theory or the Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms living or not interact with each other in a complex system that helps to regulate life on the planet and that constantly. In the early 1970s, James Lovelock, while trying to understand if the possible life of Mars was similar to the one on Earth, theorized that Earth behaves like a superorganism.
What does it mean?
It means that the Earth is alive! Plants and animals are connected, to each other and the atmosphere. Their interaction sends signals or messages to the planet to continually try to maintain life on Earth. For example, if the temperature cools, the Earth will adapt to create a life that can live in cold temperatures as it was in the ice age. The planet earth will always do what it takes to survive and create a new life that can survive with her.
After establishing these facts, how can we not tell ourselves that the current situation is in one way or another the punishment of the Earth for the way we have treated it since our presence. If we want to do the maths, Humankind has spent the least amount of time on Earth. However, it is also the species that has caused the most damage. If the Earth reacts to defend itself, this virus could be one of these weapons. Indeed, although we are the most intelligent species, we have not developed the wisdom to preserve our living habitat. Between massive deforestation, plastic pollution or air and water pollution, extinction of the other species on which we depend, we were gradually forcing the Earth to become unlivable.
So if Gaia’s theory is correct, this pollution and destruction option becomes unacceptable since the planet will always try to survive, even if it has to do without us.
For years the Earth has given us signals to make us understand that it is going wrong. The reduction of the bee population, global warming, massive bush fires, floods or even the advancement of the desert.
Because we have ignored these signs and have probably pushed them to the limit, the earth “takes revenge” by sending the coronavirus. So let’s take it seriously. And let’s try to interpret her messages. Gaia is angry, she is seeking revenge, says James Lovelock, who became a disaster prophet in one of his last books. “By invading on the environment, it is as if we have unwittingly declared war on the Earth system. Hence, cyclones Katrina or Sandy, the great droughts, and now the coronavirus.
Imagining a vengeful Gaia brings us into the slippery ground: as if we knew what she wanted, but also as if such a scenario justified compensation, punishment and why not the death of humanity. An article on Al Jazeera mentioned that “coronavirus deaths across 66 administrative regions of Italy, France, Spain and Germany were analysed. It found that 78% of the deaths occurred in just five regions – those five regions were the most polluted”.
To say, we are our own virus.
“India’s capital is one of the world’s most polluted cities, but its skies have turned blue and many people can see the Himalaya Mountains for the first time. In Italy’s Venice, canal water is so clear fish can be easily seen.“Al Jazeera, 2019
However, there’s some good news. Even though the virus is spreading at an astounding pace and has no cure, the severity of its consequences forced the whole world to press the pause button. No more industry, cars or planes that excessively pollute water and air. We observe a reduction in our consumption habits, and we now have a long period of questioning and meditation.
Indeed, during the last weeks of confinement, the Earth has been able to regenerate. Like a wounded person, this break allowed Gaia to heal her wounds. Her birds fly more, her water and air are purer, some species are reintegrating ecosystems they had abandoned. News all over the world is talking about it.
The UNCTAD says in an article that “global air traffic dropped by 60%.” The reduction of road and air traffic “led to a temporary dip in CO2 emissions from their pre-crisis levels, encouraging some to hope that our global society may indeed be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the long term to mitigate impending climate change.”
Another Aljazeera article says that “India’s capital is one of the world’s most polluted cities, but its skies have turned blue and many people can see the Himalaya Mountains for the first time. In Italy’s Venice, canal water is so clear fish can be easily seen.”
In The Guardian, we can read that “lions lounge on roads normally frequented by safari-goers in South Africa and bears and coyotes wander around empty accommodation in Yosemite national park in California.”
Think about it! Gaia needed to heal and felt compelled to take drastic measures in order to slow down the damage that we imposed on being. As a mother, she needs to take care of all her creatures, even if it means getting rid of our kind. We should not wait to be the victims of a cataclysm to take care of the Earth. Because she will survive, we won’t.
Let us think about that when we return to our lives at the end of the pandemic. Let us leave our old habits facing the environment in the pre-COVID period. And let’s rethink a future where we are all more mindful of Gaia.