Guest opinion by Wim Röst
Nature is beautiful, romantic and the best there is on Earth. But, nature is also fully unpredictable, dangerous and deadly. For example, by means of a virus.
Romantically, we want to live close to nature. But the closer we are to nature the more likely diseases will jump from animals to man.
This romance with nature resulted in a green blindness that reigned for decades. Every imaginary and possible danger to nature had to be fought. A little bit of warming or too much nitrogen in a nature area and billions and trillions of dollars and euros were spent. Nature itself was not thought capable of finding a new equilibrium somewhere close to the old one. According to the dominant ‘Green’ ideas whole societies should be transformed to avoid every possible damage to nature. Every change by humans was an unprecedented attempt to totally destroy the natural equilibrium.
Nature was thought to be a very fragile system, delicately balanced, and unable to find a new equilibrium after she is nudged slightly by humans. But every summer and every winter the Earth finds a new equilibrium, adapting to half-yearly changes in the position of the Sun. The Earth’s systems never collapse but are in a constant process of adaptation to daily changing situations in her environment – her position relative to the Sun is the main one. Daily the Earth adapts, finding a new equilibrium for every new situation.
After decades of green madness nature finally showed her other side, after being quite nice to humans for decades. The smallest possible enemy – a virus – was able to halt society in a way that man has not been able to do. This despite the rumours that mankind was already living in the ‘Anthropogenic Era’ or ‘Anthropocene.’ The blind arrogance of man, thinking that humans already dominated nature and ruled the whole Earth and all its parts. That arrogance was knocked out in the first round by a virus so small that it is not even visible to the human eye. Nature has always been stronger than man and for the foreseeable future nature will always dominate. Humans will always have to adapt to the limits of nature.
A small virus showed our common failure. The green blindness was able to put ‘imaginary problems that could happen in the 21st century’ in first place for decades and has dominated the minds of too many people. The green movement never warned us about the hidden danger in the environment. A virus living in a bat that could jump to man in order to kill many of us and by doing so, destroy our fragile societies. The virus jumped without any ecologist warning us and without an environmentalist movement showing us the way to prepare in advance. Green Blindness in optima forma.
The ‘Old Green World,’ fixated on imaginary problems for nature, disappeared from one moment to the other. That blindness will not return. How will it be replaced?
The New Reality
The New Reality is the reality after the virus. In a few months our new reality resulted in the impoverishment of all main economies, and it will get worse before it gets better. And we have not defeated the virus. In one moment nearly all airplanes disappeared from the sky and it is unclear when they will return and to what extent. Our world was changed in a moment – by a virus.
For luxury ‘future green fantasies’ all money disappeared, although this is not yet realized by decision makers. Many new problems appeared in our new world, a world that is no longer able to function the way we expect. A change from one moment to the next. And from one moment to the next a new reality is needed.
Over the last decades it has been the green blindness that prevented the world from seeing and solving real problems. Not only the virus but also problems like hunger, poor schools or no schools at all, health services that are too expensive or non-existent, and building a decent world-wide infrastructure.
Green blindness dominated political parties, our institutions, our countries and the United Nations. Trillions have been requested to solve future possible problems for nature.
It is twenty-twenty and we are back in reality. Nature again has proven its dominance over humans. Not by exposing us to a massive destruction by a meteor, by a massive volcanic eruption or by another huge natural force but by creating a real danger caused by one of the tiniest creatures of nature: a virus. Man does not dominate the Earth, nature dominates and man has to follow.
The new reality will ask all world leaders to reinvent the future. To reinvent societies to cope with a new virus that has established itself world-wide, lays a heavy burden on all of us for now and in the future.
One of the reasons this and other viruses develop is because of how closely people live with nature. The romantic idea of ‘man and nature united’ in the past has already resulted in a great number of epidemics that decimated populations and disrupted societies. Nature dominates man in many ways. The green arrogance made us forget that nature is dominant and full of surprises. That arrogance has made us look in the wrong direction for decades.
No preparation for real dangers
No preparations have been made for real dangers like this new virus. Our decision makers, like most of our modern academics, were living in their virtual world of models. The models made their plans for how to cope with the new epidemic. Unfortunately, no translations from model fantasies to reality were made. Our ‘Old World’ was not prepared to cope with a real problem like a new emerging virus. When the virus appeared, there were no face masks, no protective clothing for health employees, no testing capacities, no pop-up hospitals, no preparations for vaccines, no training for people, there was nothing at all. Only models.
In our world of green madness we have been busy with imaginary problems that ‘could, may, might’ appear somewhere far in the future but we have not been busy with real problems that already existed or would surely develop during our lifetime, problems for which only the exact date is unknown.
Wrong ideas dominated the world for decades, wrong initiatives empowered our main institutions.
Our present situation urges world leaders to clean up the mess. To start, we must clean up the mess of wrong ideas. No more throwing good money at bad ideas should be allowed.
In our new reality we will first have to learn how to cope with this virus. Then we will have to repair all economic damage. No room will be left to spend money on unproven imaginary ideas.
The new realism that should follow this 2020 disaster should first clean out the green fantasies that have poisoned the minds of people, making them blind to reality.
It is 2020 and the Old World must reinvent itself.
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About the author: Wim Röst studied human geography in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The above is his personal view. He is not connected to firms or foundations nor is he funded by government(s).
Thanks to Andy May for correcting and improving this article.