Credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Coronavirus 2020: The Intrigue and the Message

Joanne Murphy (Ernst)
Mar 19 · 5 min read

Wow, what a wild and crazy world we’re living in now with the Coronavirus (Covid 19)! It’s stunning how everything can change on the turn of a dime like this.

It’s so intriguing to me that the whole world is going through this same experience almost simultaneously. Reading the news it seems like one by one we’re all going through the same cycle as the Coronavirus arrives and spreads; first there’s denial and a bit (or a lot) of bluster, then a quick tip into mass hysteria about toilet paper as reality dawns on governments and, one by one, they start tightening borders.

Then schools close (except in the UK, which held out longer than anyone thought feasible or advisable) and after some initial outrage, there’s gradually a mixture of acceptance and camaraderie as people realize that yes, it’s actually happening.

Although there are still a few folks obnoxious enough to flout good sense and insist on carrying on as normal — no matter who they endanger in the process. A brazen few will keep going to get their nails done or out to restaurants until finally the government orders no public gatherings and businesses are obliged to close their doors (temporarily we hope).

As the death count grows, some people compare it to the flu and try to dismiss it still. The recovery rate is pretty high, they say. So they deem it ok to try to maintain their normal lifestyle within the confines of what is available. Meanwhile, they’re potentially spreading the virus as they merrily go about their selfish business. They may well survive if they catch it — but the more vulnerable in society will not.

The rest of us educate ourselves, thanks to the wonders of the internet. We discover the importance of flattening the curve so that our healthcare systems have a fighting chance at coping with the onslaught. This is the point at which we all learn what ‘social distancing’ means, and scramble to work from home. We try to figure out how to juggle kids and work, wondering if we’ve stocked up enough.

Until one day the local government orders a lockdown. A ‘Shelter in place’ order was recently announced in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s not quite as tight as a full lockdown, but there ain’t much wiggle room. You can still go out for short walks and make essential trips for groceries and medical supplies, but that’s about it.

I think that’s when we finally start to grasp the magnitude of this cycle. On the news we see it repeating in country after country around the world. But have we got the point yet?

This is a giant freaking wake-up call!

If you ever doubted that we as a race were at the mercy of Mother Nature, if you thought you were invincible (didn’t we all as teenagers?), by now you should be clear quite how fragile life is.

Yet she’s relatively gentle in her lesson. Not that many will die (though our hearts break for those who do & the loved ones they leave behind), compared to previous outbreaks of diseases — probably. Still too many, but perhaps we could glimpse the utter magnificence of the Universe in this situation.

Let me explain.

Even two weeks ago, the actions we needed to take en masse to mitigate climate change seemed utterly untenable. Impossible. No way could we change our selfish ways, our consumption, our polluting industries and our never-ending thirst for travel.

Then, bam, we got woke.

Yes, actually, factories can close for a while. Yes actually, planes can stop flying on such a large scale. And yes, actually, we can simplify our lives and get far more discerning about our consumption.

(Ask anyone who is still out looking for toilet paper if they’re still interested in truffle flavoured chocolate — all those weird and wonderful products pale into insignificance pretty damn quickly)

So yes, actually, we can change. We couldn’t do it ourselves, so after many ignored warnings, we got schooled. Well and truly.

What I take out of all this is that the Universe is quite literally awesome, and she will endure. She will do what she needs to do to protect her longevity.

Oh, we’re very welcome guests, of course. She’ll bring us along for the ride of our lives. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re in control. Never has that been more apparent than now, as we watch each country scramble to get on top of this virus.

The Universe will endure, but will we? I believe our chances are good, so long as we learn a few lessons from this.

We can’t control Mother Nature, but we can control our own choices. Human nature can be such a beautiful thing.

The heartening stories from Italy of people singing from their balconies to entertain one another from their quarantined isolation; the kind Canadian’s who are starting a trend of ‘caremongering’ in their communities; the hilarious memes that help loosen the daunting fear that threatens to grip us; dolphins reappearing in the canals of Venice — yes! Dolphins!

There are so many examples of the beauty of human nature in this situation — just thinking of the medical personnel all around the world endangering their own health to look after others illustrates a selflessness that brings tears to my eyes. How blessed we are to have them. We’re so incredibly grateful for every one of them I’m sure.

I’m intrigued to see how we translate this whole experience into different choices going forward. Climate change threatens our very survival. This Coronavirus is a shot across the bow from Mother Nature.

We can make new choices. We can dramatically decrease our consumption and consumerism.

The two greatest things we could do for the environment as a species would be to stop flying and to go vegan. Even going vegetarian a few days a week would be a huge step forwards (you’ve stocked up on beans already, right?).

As we scramble to work from home, we have a chance to see just how much we can do over the internet. When there’s no option to fly, we realize just how effective video conferences can be (and so much cheaper and less time-consuming!).

I wonder how thirsty for travel we would still be if flight prices actually reflected the environmental cost of that choice?

Similarly with meat. If the price included the true costs, would we still be eating it daily (or multiple times daily in many cases)?

If the Coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that major dramatic change IS possible.

Maybe we could swap our consumerism for compassion — for one another, for our planet and for ourselves, as we stumble to make the best choices we can.

I certainly hope so, because I really don’t want to see what Mother Nature’s next warning will be.

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