Over the past few weeks of lockdown in Greece, I have asked myself numerous times: if we can shut down the world economy because of a virus, why don’t we shut everything down until we end war or find real solutions to global climate change? In my mind the horrors of war are much worse than the horrors of disease and dying and the threat and reality of global extinctions pose a much greater threat to humanity (not to mention nature) than the Coronavirus.
Why is it that we are willing to take extreme measures to defeat the Coronavirus but we are not willing to take extreme measures to end war or to stop global climate change? A thought keeps creeping into the back of my mind: the fight against disease and death is (understood to be) a fight against Mother Nature and (sadly) we are well used to fighting against Her. If we recognized that human beings have brought the Coronavirus upon ourselves, we would have to face up to our responsibility for it.
I suspect that after Coronavirus is “conquered,” we will still be vilifying Mother Nature as the cause of disease and death, and we will still be trying to deny that death is the appropriate end of human life and all lives on our planet. Moreover, we probably will still have not recognized that the cause of the Coronavirus pandemic is not Mother Nature’s callous desire to “get us in the end.”
Recently Woman Spirit Ireland sent me the musings of scientist, environmental activist, and ecofeminist Vandana Shiva on the Coronavirus pandemic. I urge you to read the entire document, but to make a long story short, Shiva tells us that human beings are the cause of the current crisis. According to Shiva, the Coronavirus pandemic is rooted in the false belief that nature is but a resource for human beings to use. This false belief is fueled by an insatiable greed telling us that we have a right to use nature in any way we choose.
Shiva writes that viruses like the Coronavirus occur naturally in the web of life. They may be carried by animals for hundreds or thousands of years with no real damage being done because the animals who carry them do not usually come into close contact with human beings. The reason viruses like the Coronavirus become epidemic is that we human beings are destroying the natural habitats of the animals with whom we share life on our planet.
Most of us have seen footage of hungry polar bears entering towns and turning over garbage cans in Alaska. This is not an isolated occurrence. Rather it is happening on a massive scale. As animals venture into towns and cities seeking food because the forests and rivers where they once found it are no longer, the likelihood that they will transmit viruses that they carry without becoming ill increases. If wild animals transmit a virus to animals being kept in the deplorable conditions of factory farms, of course it will spread. Viruses will also spread more rapidly in crowded cities, especially in areas with inadequate sanitation. Moreover, warmer temperatures prolong the lives of transmitters of disease like mosquitoes.
The cause of the Coronavirus is human greed and the false belief that nature is but a resource for us to use to fulfill our real and imagined needs. Rather than celebrating Mother Nature as the Source of Life—our lives and all lives—we imagine that She is the enemy. Why? Because every now and then, and with increasing frequency, She reminds us that we are not all powerful and not immortal. We react with anger. We will conquer death, we say, no matter what it takes. We will control nature.
What we do not realize is that we will never conquer death. Death is the appropriate ending of our finite lives. Every single one of us will surely die. In that regard—and in many others—we do not control nature. Our individual lives are part of something much larger than any one of us. We are all connected in the web of life.
Our lives have ground to a halt so that we can fight and defeat the Coronavirus. But no one is telling us that the real villain in this story is ourselves. You and me and our false belief that we can and should control nature.
Our ancestors knew better. Accepting death, they celebrated the Source of Life and the cycles of birth, death, and regeneration. Can we do the same? We need to act on this ancient belief. We must place the recognition that we are all connected in a web of life much bigger than our individual selves at the forefront of all the decisions we make about the future of life on our planet.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who will soon be moving to Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.