Updated: April 13, 2020 9:30:23 am
I am bewildered. In the last 30 years, the leadership of this world has been incompetent and negligent. They have strutted around like immortals. Country after country has hammered nature and avoided dealing with climate change and global warming. Seldom have targets and commitments for preventing environmental disaster been achieved and super powers like the US have even pulled out of their past climate change agreements. China, over these decades, encouraged their wildlife markets and the trade in animal species both for medicinal and food purposes. They were warned many times about mutating viruses and their possible impact, but chose to ignore.
The natural world over the last three decades has been devastated. And over these decades, our business leaders and their greed focused only on the so-called economy, and every year they ran off to Davos to restate their mission. Yes, this super rich community lost the plot. They just could not give back to nature, their only desire was to take. People like Bill Gates are exceptions. Our global leaders are inspired by big business. It has become the new mantra of life and everyone aspires for more. Nature gets increasingly exploited. Then suddenly the corona missile explodes. It mutates from the Wuhan wildlife market in China and envelops the world. Life stops. The Davos dream vanishes. Thousands die, and economies gasp for breath. There are no supermen to fight this monster. Mortality is high, borders are sealed. A deathly quiet. Nature’s revenge, or the first serious warning to life on earth — look at it as you will. The world will never be the same again.
Will the world ever learn? Will we stop the billions spent on war games and the arms race? Can we restart our lives in simpler ways after this virus fades? Do we have a design for living where the aspiration for super-luxury does not determine either what we do or how we do it? Can we hold each other’s hand in times of need without burrowing in our selfish holes? Can we create a new era that gives back to nature? Can we give our billions to ending the horrors of new viruses we have created by our never-ending exploitation? Can we even have a dialogue across the world with a more human face and with real truths, not deception? Can we review and rewrite the charters of the United Nations and WHO? They have not only failed us but their bureaucracies need to be retooled in order to face the crisis we are in. They have been completely inadequate in both their preparation and articulation.
Our past is full of ugly and monstrous deeds. If we go on as we have done new viruses will destroy all of humanity. We need to restart our planet in a vibrant and innovative way. Let us never forget that those who are fighting this virus to survive are those who created it in the first place by their short-term twisted priorities and goals. Hopefully, some of them have learnt a lesson. Hopefully, the macabre wildlife markets will close forever. Hopefully, our billions, instead of going waste on war games, will go into scientific research that prevents future viruses. It must go in non-invasive solutions that reduce green house gases and global warming. Sadly, it is after death and suffering that pollution levels are down and the air quality is better. Less exhaust fumes and CO2 are being pumped into the air. There are no planes flying. But all this should have been the norm without the horrors of this virus. Hopefully, when this is over, the natural world will get its due.
Let me now focus on India. It will take a few months of rigorous curfew to deal with the first wave of this deadly disease. Maybe the heat will help. It gets hotter each day. Heat creates virus instability. As soon as it settles, we will require our Prime Minister to bring in an era of reconciliation between political leaders and their parties. Non-partisan governance and policy is the need of the hour. By this time, we would be teetering on economic collapse that could cause serious law and order issues. If the Nyaya scheme in the Congress manifesto is the best, then we must implement it. All forces will have to unite. Our electronic media must stop the nonsense it spews and the bizarre conflict and bickering it encourages. It will not be a moment for those who spew conflict and violence. They will have to be quarantined forever. We need the best minds in every party to work under the Prime Minister and we need the best ideas to restructure and restart our engines. People will want peace after this war. Nobody is interested in the ridiculous verbal brawls, and the nasty sarcastic remarks between parties and politicians or the horrors of our mischievous electronic media. It will be a moment for rebuilding and an opportunity to design a new way to progress into the future.
It no longer matters how severe our virus wave is. When it settles, we will desperately be searching for a new beginning, new solutions that are non-invasive and protect life on earth. The best minds in every field, irrespective of their political leanings, will have to come together for it. That kind of team effort has to be led by the prime minister who must unite one and all and lead from the front. We must reconcile our differences, unite, govern without divides and be prepared to use this moment to deliver a new India. The world is literally gasping for breath. We all need a new kind of oxygen — a new design for living. Without it we will go nowhere.
This article first appeared in the print edition of April 13, 2020, under the name ‘Press restart’. Thapar is author of Tigerfire and has spent nearly 40 years working with wild tigers
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