The Origins of the Coronavirus

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Leonardo Boff*

We are capable of foolish and demented conduct; from now on you can fear everything, everything, including the annihilation of the human race; would be the fair price of our follies and our cruelties

Today, it is a fact of the collective conscience of those who cultivate an integral ecology, like so many scientists like Brian Swimme and Pope Francis in his encyclical “On Care for our Common Home” that everything is related to everything else. All beings in the universe and on Earth, including us human beings, are involved in intricate networks of relationships in all directions, so that nothing exists outside the relationship. This is also the basic thesis of quantum physics by Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr.

This was known by the original peoples, as expressed in the wise words of Chief Seattle in 1856: “One thing we know: the Earth does not belong to man. It is the man who belongs to the Earth. All things are interconnecteds like the blood that unites a family; everything is related to each other. What hurts the Earth also hurts the sons and daughters of the Earth. It was not man who wove the web of life: he is merely a thread in it. Whatever he does to the plot, he will do to himself.” That is to say, there is an intimate connection between the Earth and the human being. If we attack the Earth, we also attack ourselves and vice versa.

Astronauts had the same perception of their spacecraft and the Moon: Earth and humanity are one and the same entity. Isaac Asimov witnessed it well in 1982, at the request of the New York Times, taking stock of the 25 years of the space age: “The legacy is the perception that, from the perspective of spacecraft, Earth and Humanity form a a single entity (The New York Times, October 9, 1982). We are Earth. man comes from humus, fertile land, or the Adam biblical meaning the son and daughter of the fruitful Earth. After this realization, it will never leave our conscience that the fate of Earth and humanity is inseparably common.

Unfortunately, what the Pope regrets in his encyclical encyclical: “we have never mistreated and hurt our Common Home as in the last two centuries” (n. 53). The voracity of wealth accumulation is so devastating that we are inaugurating, say some scientists, a new geological era: that of “Anthropocene”. I mean, who threatens life and accelerates the sixth mass extinction, which we are already in, is the human being himself. The aggression is so violent that every year more than a thousand species of living beings disappear, ushering in something worse than the Anthropocene, the necrocenthe: the era of mass production of death. As Earth and Humanity are interconnected, the production of mass death occurs not only in nature, but within humanity itself. Millions die of hunger, thirst, victims of war or social violence in all parts of the world. And insensitive, we do nothing.

Not without reason James Lovelock, the formulator of the theory of the Earth as a self-regulating living superorganism, Gaia, wrote a book “Gaia's Revenge” (Intrinsic, 2006). I believe that current diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, zica virus, sars, ebola, measles, the current coronavirus and the generalized degradation in human relations, marked by profound inequality/social injustice and the minimum lack of solidarity, are a reprisal of Gaia for the offenses that we uninterruptedly inflict on her.

It is not without reason that the virus has broken out where there is more pollution. I wouldn't say how J. Lovelock is “Gaia's revenge”, because she, as the Great Mother, does not take revenge, but gives us severe signs that she is sick (typhoons, melting polar ice caps, droughts and floods, etc.) and, in the limit, due to the fact that we do not learn the lesson, retaliates against us like the aforementioned diseases. It is a reaction to a violent human action.

I recall the book-testament of Théodore Monod, perhaps the only great contemporary naturalist, in his book “And if human adventure were to fail” (Paris, Grasset, 2000): “We are capable of foolish and insane conduct; from now on you can fear everything, everything, including the annihilation of the human race; it would be the fair price of our follies and our cruelties” (p. 246).

This does not mean that governments around the world, resigned, stop fighting the coronavirus, protecting populations and urgently seeking a vaccine to face it, despite its constant mutations. In addition to an economic-financial disaster, it can mean a human tragedy, with an incalculable number of victims.

But Earth will not be content with these small gifts. It begs a different attitude towards it: one of respect for its rhythms and limits, of care for its sustainability and of feeling that we are more than sons and daughters of Mother Earth, but the Earth itself that feels, thinks, loves, venerates and cares for . As we care, we must care for her. She doesn't need us. We need her. She may not want us on her face anymore. And it will continue to spin through outer space, but without us because we were ecocides and geocides.

As we are beings of intelligence and lovers of life, we can change the course of our destiny. May the Creator Spirit strengthen us in this purpose.

*Leonardo Boff is a theologian, author, among other books, of Caring for the Earth - Protecting Life: How to Avoid the End of the World (record)

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