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Category Name - Leaders Speak26 March, 2020Back

Outbreak of Coronavirus ‘COVID-19: Nature’s Fury?

By Vineet Mittal, Chairman, Avaada Group

Outbreak of Coronavirus ‘COVID-19: Nature’s Fury?

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” – Chief Seattle

The panic caused by coronavirus outbreak has unleashed mayhem in our daily lives and we see disruption in every sphere of our existence. A news report stated in the morning today, that more than 1 billion are locked-out in their home, as countries across the globe continue to struggle to contain the virus. The lock-out perhaps seems only way to defend ourselves.

I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. The present crisis reinforces my belief. To me this is a reminder from Earth that it is sick and needs urgent remedy. Driven by incessant greed and materialistic pleasures, human beings have exploited nature which is evident from the statistics below:

  • According to the estimates of World Bank, globally forest cover has declined from around 32% of total area in 1980 to 30% in 2015
  • According to a study, 80 per cent of global wastewater goes untreated, containing everything from human waste to highly toxic industrial discharges.
  • According to the latest air quality database, 97% of cities in low- and middle- income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

There have been massive fires in Amazon, Australia and California, frequent floods, melting of glaciers etc which show nature’s fury which we have conveniently ignored. We must all take this as mild response from nature of its power. The fact that even a ‘microscopic organism’ can bring the omnipotent ‘human beings’ (as we falsely believe us to be) to their knees bears the testimony to this.

Shouldn’t we re-evaluate our development model?

This bring me to another important point which is around economic development adopted in last century. The large-scale industrialisation driven by fossil fuels has continued to deplete the environment – situation today has reached to an extent that it is threatening human existence.

For arresting global warming, countries collectively decided to bring down their emissions and a target was agreed by everyone. However, going by current rate, IPCC (United Nations Inter-Governmental Report on Climate change) predicts that countries are unlikely to achieve the target emission reductions.

Another aspect of growth model is that businesses are more guided by improvement in bottom line than impact it will have on society and natures. It inherently justifies greed and exploitation of resources whether it is human beings or nature. The self-destructive path has led us to situation where are we do. The coronavirus is just a warning to amend ourselves.

Find reasons to Smile and spread positivity– ‘Live in harmony with nature’

It is now evident only way to contain the lethal coronavirus is to practice social distancing and cleaning hands on regular basis as is being advised Governments / Health agencies. As the lock-down continues and people being confined to their home, many are getting a feeling of frustration, gloom and helplessness. While these are difficult time, one must have larger picture in mind. Social distancing does not mean that suspension of communication. The other means of communication are still working and must be utilised to the fullest. In fact, mutual concern and support will only make the world move closer.

These are certainly challenging times, but we must remember – ‘Tough times never last, tough people do’ . The crisis serves as a reminder that human race has survived many catastrophes spanning over hundreds and thousands of years which it has endured successfully. India has never witnessed lock-down of this scale in its modern history. The train movement was never stopped including times of war. The circumstances are helping us with experiences which are unique. Rather than getting frustrated and bogged down, we can view this as opportunity for experiential learning.

The pandemic also permits us to take a step-back and deliberate on our lifestyle and, needs. We must utilise this time to find sustainable ways of living which are in harmony with nature.

Need for looking into our roots for sustainable living

I’ve always felt the need to nurture and care the environment – the foundation of my firm ‘Avaada’ was laid with this basic premise. Sustainability is core to Avaada’s existence. In our fast pace lives and incessant material desire, many of us have forgotten to live in harmony with nature – as our ancient culture taught us to Sustainable living has always been integral part of Indian living.

‘Yajurveda’ a sacred Indian text states:

तस्माद्वा एतमादत्मन अकाश समभुता,
अकासद्वयुह, वायोरग्निह, अग्नरपाह,
अदभ्य पृथ्वी, पृथ्वी ओसधाय,
ओसादिभ्योसम, अन्नत पुरसाह |

The sloka aptly points to a fundamental fact that living being comprise of air, fire, earth, water and plants which are 5 basic elements and are also known as panchbhutas. They collectively constitute environment. Environment is fundamental to human existence and plays a very significant role in human civilization. Human beings have close relations with the biosphere in which they live. The whole environment and ecology consisting of earth, air, water and plants provide conditions for sustaining human life.

The, present crisis gives all of us opportunity to reflect, ponder and decide on changes in our behaviour and actions. Please take care of parents, serve the needy, act as responsible citizens and take actions which help in improvement of environment around us.

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A social entrepreneur, pioneer and evangelist of sustainable development Vineet has been a vanguard of the clean energy transition in emerging economies across Asia and Africa. His passion for sustainability originates from the ancient Indian Vedic philosophy of ‘Mata bhoomi putro aham prithiwaya” - The Earth is to be protected like a mother and nurtured for future generations.

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