I put this post on Face Book, a little Earth emoji followed by the comment ‘go to your rooms and think about what you’ve done.’ It came off the back of a conversation I was having with my partner about why we thought we had ended up in this situation. With Covid19 that is.
We were discussing a FB vid I had seen of a food market in Wuhan and the notion Covid19 had evolved to jump from one species to another at this market. I was not surprised that covid19 had spawned within this environment. Pythons, cats, rats, bats, dogs, were in cages next to the stations there fellow condemned were being hauled and butchered. Flies buzzed from faeces to lumps of meat to sweaty humans. It left me feeling disgusted and angry.
I generally steer clear of such vids. Seeing one once left me very shaken. But I was curious to see where this had started. After the red mist had settled a little, I wondered if this is what we were doing to our fellow creatures, did we not then deserve this virus? A plague of our own making.
I felt I was simply feeling a natural human emotion. Something we all share. But why not those traders and customers in Wuhan? Didn’t notice any there.
Surely animals have the capacity to be aware and to feel? I mean, how else can they negotiate the world without sensory input and an ability to process that information. No matter how basic, feelings and awareness must exist right?
Just before they introduced the lock-down here in the UK, I spoke to a friend. He told me that Wuhan had suffered years of famine. We both agreed that it would not take to many missed meals in this country before even our beloved cats and dogs were on the menu. I wonder if there is anything worse than having to watch your children slowly starve.
I felt hypocritical with my feelings. Knowing that this was wrong but not being able to see quite why. My anchor for those feelings came through another conversation with my partner. She saw the issue easily, as I’m sure you do – the older I have become the more stupid I have come to realise I can be, it has been quite liberating.
It was not so much what they were eating that angered and repulsed me, although it did. But more the welfare of the animals and conditions within which the people of Wuhan were carrying out their basic right to survive.
Sometimes It’s easier to recognise the connection between action and consequence. Use CFCs and a hole appears in the ozone layer. Pump CO2 into the atmosphere, it gets warmer. Make and wrap everything in a substance that is cheap to produce and practically lasts forever and it eventually clogs up oceans and food chains.
I feel it was animal welfare and a basic lack of humanity that had likely allowed this virus to prosper and make its way to our front doors.
Just to clarify my point here a little, I’m not interested in pointing the finger at this or that country or culture. If your expecting me to start laying into the people of Wuhan, you are going to be disappointed. We are happy to consume goods, products, resources with little thought to where they come from. We live where we have social health care, sewers, drinking water, animal welfare. Where, even in the worst peace time crisis the world has ever seen, we are assured our government is probably doing the best it can. I believe Boris when he says he is just trying to save lives. Never said that about a politician before.
But back to the point. Surely we all share a responsibility in how we live, consume, eat, use energy. I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. Guilt won’t help. Too negative. But surely we have some part to play in this?
I do think we have been sent to our rooms as a species to think about what we have done. Like a child, as the disapproval of our parent outside increases maybe we our being taught our behaviour has consequences?. But we are lucky. In all this fear we are reasonably secure. We have food, reasonably sure the supply chain will continue. Fresh water will keep flowing. Our bins are still being collected. Our wonderful NHS is doing everything it can to save lives.
I meant, how different it must be too not only be afraid of this virus. But to have to face it without a welfare state, without a robust social health care system, without continuity of our food chain.
But we have these things to strengthen our ability to face this virus. Maybe we did need a bit of space from each other? Time out from work, from commuting, from what we take for granted.
But I am grateful we can reflect in this way. That many people are enabled a level of security at this time. How difficult must it be in a flat, in a city. Let alone in a city without social health care, a threatened food supply chain?
Don’t get me wrong. I am worried about this virus. About how ill equipped our front-line staff in hospitals and care homes are. How the numbers of dead kept doubling every three to four days. But it still took a while to sink in. It felt distant for a while. Happening to others. But it did dawn on me at lock-down that covid19 was going to affect not only the whole world but also people I knew and cared about. I told you I was stupid.
It feels a bit like we have been given the chance to re-evaluate what is important in our lives. In our world. A chance to think about what we can do as well as what we have done. In our isolation this virus seems to have given us a greater feeling of being connected to one another.
Maybe this has come from how we’ve been living our lives up to now. A kind of reckless freedom leading to individual isolation. We hear about events on the news, we see the suffering of others in a war or famine and feel it’s happening to someone else. Maybe this is part of our lesson? We are all in this together.
I’m sure there will be many people looking to blame a race or a culture. But that’s not likely to help. Never has done. Knowing how and why is good. But blaming people that have not been afforded the same opportunities and securities we have feels almost as wrong as what’s happening at that market in Wuhan. Almost. What’s more helpful is the situation we are in has the potential to let us see beyond the rhythm of our lives. To notice what we are grateful for.
Covid19 has brought us to our knees. Showed us who really has the power in this relationship. Like a patient parent accepting the abuse of a troublesome child up to a point our earth has been as tolerant as it can. But the threshold of tolerance seems to have been breached.
It seems we have not yet learnt to ‘play nicely.’ And if we don’t learn? Well! What comes next?
Like any good parent the earth does not want to do this. But if we fail to listen to repeated and well-founded warnings regarding our unacceptable behaviour, we may find we are no longer welcome. If at home our eldest child threatens the life and well-being of every other child in our house, no matter how hard it would be, no matter how much we loved them, they would have to go.
I don’t know what the answers are, but I do think we are being shown there is a different way.
This necessary, if draconian, lock-down has shown we can adapt given the right motivation. Shifting our awareness to the people in our society who keep it functioning, keep us well, keep us fed. Being grateful for what we do have maybe all that is necessary.
Being able to reflect in this way may not be so much a consequence of covid19 but the reason for it.
Our first world lives protects us from what it really costs to be in our secure position. We dump our rubbish in a bin and it conveniently goes somewhere else. We pour what we don’t want down the sink and it makes its way into an infinite ocean. We pump hormones and antibiotics into our food chain, and butcher our animals on a production line, but we don’t have to see it. It is not a bloody table in a market covered in flies and fear. Its clean and clinical. Or so we like to think.
But all this is literally coming back to knock on our door. It’s been tapping for a while now.
Change always takes effort but it is our individual effort that will make the change. What and where we chose to buy. It will take some serious sacrifice. It may no longer be possible to buy strawberries and avocados in January.
The power for change is in our hands.
Change for us might mean persevering on a path despite trimming some of the soft luxury we have been used to along the way.
So, (day 18 of lock-down) I was so pleased to hear the Chinese government has introduced a ban on the consumption and sale of wild animals, cats and dogs. It’s not enough and it won’t happen quick enough, but it’s a start. A start along the right path. And for the first time in my life I am hopefully optimistic about our future. Now isn’t that a strange thing to feel as the apocalypse unfolds. I did tell you I was stupid.