T he exact truth of the origin of the coronavirus will probably never be clear. Let’s assume for now that the official story is true: that corona was transferred from a wild animal to humans at a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. It then has the features of an epoch-making myth. For in it the drama of our time is condensed: the systematic and consistent assault of man on undomesticated, free, wild life – an attack on millions of animal and plant species that we have exterminated because we have sacrificed them on the altar of our boundless greed. One species seems to have been beaten out of the species. For it strikes back: COVID-19.
Less than 13 percent of the Earth’s surface is still classified as “wilderness”. Everything else has been colonized by man. As a result, humans have penetrated into areas that are not well suited for them to enter: to places where they come into contact with microbes that, removed from their original habitat, can lead to pandemics and thousands of deaths. Whether corona, AIDS, Ebola, Sars, plague or flu – every epidemic we suffered has come from animals whose way of life we consistently disregard.
The fact that a virus has now jumped from a pangolin to humans and since then has endangered the world’s institutions (and in the end, compared with its siblings, is not very aggressive) almost seems to be a warning sign for the world – similar to the iceberg crash of the Titanic at the beginning of the 20th century: a wake-up call to put an end to the constant attacks against nature, the constant rape of its virgin wilderness. Just as frozen water can send a ship down to the bottom of the ocean, even microbes can kill as proud a giant organism as humans.
The wilderness has always been unforgiving. Perhaps this is her last warning. When will we heed her call? When will we finally listen to that which she has constantly been warning us of? That we are fallible, mortal, and not masters of all we see but a part of its intricate interrelationships which must be respected, cherished and loved if nature as a whole, which includes us, is to flourish.