A second look: what does the coronavirus pandemic tell us? | Sports and outdoors



At the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I wrote a City Wilds column that suggested that the new strain of virus starting to wreak havoc around the world could be viewed as some kind of teacher (“Instead of a evil enemy, consider the possibility of a virus as a teacher ”).

As I noted then, one of the things that I admire in many native cultures, including the native Alaskan people, is the idea or belief (as I have come to understand it ) that other forms of life can be our teachers, our guides. Without going into too much detail here – and, I guess, at the risk of offending some people – I think the coronavirus offers lessons for us. A little food for thought, if that’s easier to digest.

At the beginning, I gave this example: the virus sweeping through our human world reminds us that we are part of a larger nature and that we are not separate from it. More than that, we are not “above” nature, not superior to her. We – and by “we” I mean America’s dominant culture and too many people we have chosen to be our leaders – like to think of ourselves as controlling, or at least acting like we are controlling.

We humans imagine that we take the lead, we decide what is best for us, damn the rest of the world. Or at least ignored. But as the wisest of us have warned over the years, we do so at our own risk. There are consequences to be paid for our contemptuous, self-centered and destructive notions and actions.

Climate change teaches us the same lesson. The problem is, so far it’s been a slow-motion crisis (although that is changing). Even with all the extreme events of the past few years and the clear evidence of major global climate changes and their impacts, not enough humanity has so far been threatened here and now to get our full attention, to make us change our behavior.

Well, bring in the novel coronavirus and the Covid-19 pandemic, which have caught our attention – you could even say demanded it – in a remarkably short period of time. And in the many months (almost two years, in fact) since making the leap to humans, the virus has skillfully demonstrated that our species still does not control it, even after some scientific magic. has produced a number of effective vaccines in record time.

Through its own processes and over an incredibly short period of time, the virus evolved into a particularly contagious and deadly form, the “delta variant,” which has wreaked havoc even in countries with many vaccines.

Does a nation immediately come to mind?

For all its wealth, scientific expertise and medical know-how, the United States has experienced enormous suffering of all kinds, much of it self-inflicted, especially in recent months after we Americans thought that we had “beaten” the coronavirus.

As the media has repeatedly reported, this suffering has not been experienced uniformly in our country. “Red” states with largely politically and religiously conservative populations have the worst, for one simple reason: the refusal of many people to get vaccinated and wear masks, despite overwhelming evidence that these two actions best help prevent the spread of Covid. -19.

As President Joe Biden (among others) has repeatedly pointed out, the United States is now experiencing “an unvaccinated pandemic.”

There is no better example of this new reality than here in Alaska, which has recently seen a surge in Covid-19 greater than any other state or nation.

During this new wave, both locally and elsewhere, the virus continues to teach us lessons, if only we were careful.

For example: denial is one of the most troublesome human traits and is at the heart of many woes of our species. Not to be reminded, but denial played a key role in the most recent wave of Covid-19: denying that the virus is real, that vaccines are both safe and effective, that people are young and healthy people can get sick because of it. , again and again.

This denial has been fueled by another troublesome reality (and again, we shouldn’t need to reiterate this): Advances in technology can be a curse as well as a blessing.

The Internet and associated technologies have contributed to the “silo effect”. People can now easily find just about any information – or misinformation – on various social media platforms, including what is espoused by the so-called “experts” who fuel the implicit biases, fears and paranoia. . This powerfully contributed to a widely held belief in conspiracy theories and alternate realities. Who would have guessed that a substantial portion of Alaskans and other Americans would trust ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic worms, more than Covid-19 vaccines?

Another lesson, which also apparently needs to be relearned over and over again: the dangers of blind allegiance to a charismatic personality. Donald Trump’s precocious and continued contemptuous attitude towards the “Chinese virus” has swayed his legions of faithful Trumpians, who do not question his statements, however blatantly false.

We have been taught, again, that self-proclaimed patriots, like true believers, can be very dangerous. The insistence on individual rights and the freedom to do what one wants, to the detriment of the common good, the common good, has played a huge role in the resurgence of Covid-19.

The pandemic has accentuated the best and the worst of human behavior. We don’t need to look any further than Anchorage to see the selfless and heroic actions of frontline workers and the appalling words and actions of self-righteous “haters” who ridicule and threaten the very people who might end up. by saving their lives.

Those who have paid attention have also witnessed the benefits of the privilege – and the costs for those who do not – across the world. Rich and technologically advanced countries like the United States have had access to a glut of vaccines, while poorer countries have received trace amounts of life-saving drugs.

The coronavirus has highlighted the divide between the haves and have-nots – and the troubling lack of a sufficiently compassionate response to those in need. The infuriating irony, of course, is that so many in our nation refuse to accept what other countries are begging to receive, too often to no avail.

One final thought: While we don’t know for sure the origins of the coronavirus, it seems likely that this viral outbreak started either in China’s’ wet markets’, where wild, live, and caged animals are among the ‘ foods’ available for purchase. and slaughter; or in a testing lab, where viral studies were underway and the coronavirus somehow escaped. Regardless, it seems that the origins of the pandemic are likely linked to the all too common human penchant for cruelty to animals, whether for food and other consumer uses, to “control” their numbers. or for scientific research.

So another lesson could be this: It is time – after time – to stop treating the Earth and its countless inhabitants so badly, because in the end our actions will only hurt us. In a way, it looks like a kind of karma.

I would like to think that we can see wisdom, righteousness, respect and compassion for all life. But if nothing else, we might consider our own best interests.

So yes, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic, of all kinds. Hopefully more of us are starting to pay attention to what the virus has to teach us; and then, more importantly, reflect on actions that benefit the greater good while behaving in a more respectful manner towards each other and towards Earth, our home of origin. And overall the only house we have.

Bill Sherwonit, writer and conservationist in Anchorage, is a widely published essayist and the author of more than a dozen books, including “Living with Wildness: An Alaskan Odyssey” and “Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska’s Wildlife” . Readers wishing to send comments or questions directly to Bill can do so at [email protected]


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