25 June 2020, The Tablet

Can we heal our common home?


Creation in crisis

Can we heal our common home?


Photo: PA/ZUMA Wire, David Talukdar

 

A distinguished eco-theologian argues the real lesson of Covid-19 is that unchecked human exploitation of the natural world and the rise of the pandemic are inextricably linked

In just six months, a contagious novel virus that was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 has spread across the world, with more than 8.5 million confirmed cases in 188 countries. More than 472,000 people have lost their lives due to Covid-19, the respiratory infection caused by the virus, many of them dying alone without the comfort of family or friends.

The World Health Organisation warns that the pandemic is a long way from being over, and says we should be prepared for new outbreaks, especially in areas where lockdowns are eased. The last time anything similar happened was the “Spanish flu”, which, after the First World War, killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

History teaches us that pandemics change the world. Although the death tolls were much higher, the plague of Justinian in the sixth century severely undermined the Byzantine Empire, and the Black Death, 800 years later, which wiped out one third of the population of Europe, had a profound impact on the economy and society. Covid-19, too, will have a dramatic impact. It is already causing the most brutal recession in living memory. In January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a global growth rate of 3.3 per ent in 2020. By mid-April 2020, with one quarter of the world’s population in lockdown, the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, was predicting that “global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020”.

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