Coronavirus: Nature’s Balancing Act?

By Sanjay Kumar Ojha

English naturalist Charles Darwin, in his theory of “Origin of Species”, stated that all species would continue to increase in number if they were allowed to. However, their increase is kept in check by the environment we live in.

Another British theorist Thomas Malthus viewed that there was limit to food grain production as against the geometric growth of the mankind. The natural forces correct the imbalance between food supply and population growth in the form of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes and human-made actions such as wars and famines.

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The destructive hurricanes are a frequent phenomena in recent years, which intensify rainfall by as much as 10 per cent, as say media reports.

Not only it, there is much evidence of associations between climatic conditions and infectious diseases.

WHO reports say the El Nino cycle is associated with changes in the risk of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and other infectious diseases. Again, the El Nino is a frequent phenomena because of the human-induced global warming.

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Having said, though to a large extent, we have negated these catastrophes with the advancement of technologies, we have not been able to limit the use of pesticides and GMO crops, control climate change, especially the heavy carbon emission by the burning of fossil fuels, cutting trees and hunting wildlifes.

But why all these discussions?

The reason is the spread of the new coronavirus (nCovid 19), which has reached a pandemic, spanning 112 countries and regions.

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The deadly mysterious virus has brought the third planet of the solar system to a virtual standstill. The roads, airports, seaports, markets, cinema halls, etc. are witnessing a deserted look, with the people choosing to live in houses and maintaining distance from others as much as possible.

The refineries, factories and thermal power stations, etc. are shut.

The office-goers are working from houses and the technology use is helping them to connect with their peers from across the world.

Many companies, from big companies to startups, are asking their employees to work from home and avoid unnecessary travel.

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Several events, including sports and global conferences are being cancelled. Indian Premier League (IPL), scheduled to start next month in our country, is rumoured to be cancelled. 

But what does it hold for the environment?

This means, less use of transport, which is set to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in a significant way in the coming days and months.

A New York Times report says “China’s carbon dioxide emissions over the past three weeks have been about 25 per cent lower than during the same period last year, according to calculations by Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air”.

But this dip in not insignificant.

The report further estimates that “the three-week decline is roughly equal to the amount of carbon dioxide that the state of New York puts out in a full year (about 150 million metric tons)”.

Besides, people are canceling cruise trips.

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Nearly 3,700 passengers and crew members are quarantined since two months, aboard the Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan due to the Coronavirus.

Though the deadly menace is a loss for the mankind but a win for the environment.

Why? Because, “people on a seven-day cruise produce roughly the same carbon footprint as they would during 18 days on land, not to mention the damage that ships wreak on fragile ocean ecosystems”, says a report of The Week.

In order to reduce climate change effect, global experts were always of the opinion that the companies should encourage “work from home” facility, and let people connect with their office colleagues via technology. 

But we human suffer from the “inertia to change” syndrome. Now, with this epidemic making a necessity for people to work from home, in order to stay away from close contacts, let’s hope that better sense prevails among enterpreneurs and the “work from home” principle gets an acceptance in the future. If it happens, it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions to a large extent.

A win for the environment.

The deadly Covid is speculated to have originated from Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, and the wary Chinese authorities are working to amend wildlife laws to prevent future catastrophe. This law will work to increase biodiversity in the country, with the world’s largest population.

Thus, again, a win for the environment.

The likely progression of the global economic slowdown, triggered by the mysterious virus, is set to hit the poor countries.

A research by Australian National University said that the global Coronavirus death toll may reach 1.5 crore, even in the best case scenario. The report also speculated that the global GDP could shrink as much as $2.3 trillion, with the growth of some countries falling as low as 8 per cent.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, has pointed to “more dire scenarios” arising out of this disease and, thus, made available $50 billion to help countries deal with the virus, including $10 billion at zero interest for the poorest of nations.

This worst case scenario is again a vindication of the population control theories of the naturalists.

What lessons should we learn from this crisis?

Winston Churchill said on the cusp of World War II, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

The Coronvirus pandemic has set alarming bells across the world. Let’s hope that the world’s economies will rise to the occasion and work in unity to ensure that climate is given its due respect, while we advance to the human civilization.

There are speculations that China will rapidly try to recover economy after it is done with this infectious disease. This means the refineries, factories, etc., are working all hours to accelerate growth. The side-effect will the excess emissions of the greenhouse gases. Not only China, other global economies are likely to engage in over-production to spur growth. 

But here’s the caution!

You can grow but not at the cost of the nature. If you harm nature, the nature will harm you. It’s like give and take formula. 

If you create an imbalance, don’t forget: the Nature does a balancing act.

About the Author:

Sanjay Kumar Ojha is the Deputy Editor at Medical News India.

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