[avatar user=”Jinine” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file” target=”_blank”]JININE LAI[/avatar]
As coronavirus caused disease of 2019 (COVID-19) cases are related to the pulmonary system of the human body, it is commonsense that environmental pollution has played a pertinent part in fomenting virus crisis. This being so, this can be seen as a reminder that the destruction of Mother Nature to appease the market economy is not doing good to the human respiratory system.
The bitter reality is, major chunk of the victims of this virus are those who have underlying health preconditions, in particular pulmonary system related problems more or less caused by environmental pollution and degradation.
Now, my curiosity is, how will we rationalize the fact that air pollution kills more than 6 million people every year leaving more millions suffering from air polluted health problems. Airborne pollutants are responsible for about one-third of the deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, and lung cancer, as well as one-quarter of deaths from heart attack.
It is a bitter irony unfolding before us all that one aspect of the coronavirus outbreak is the sudden reduction of environmental pollution, and reappearance of nature and wildlife. It can veritably be said, that nature is celebrating the axing of activities of market economy and consumerism.
How will we rationalize this fact? Will we interpret it in an optimistic perspective putting the bright side of the virus to the fore? Or will we again rationalize in a defensive rebuttal that this good environment comes at the cost of thousands of lives, businesses and the market economy as a whole?
When we rewind today’s modern world of economic development, we do find it coming at the cost of Mother Nature and wildlife? Are we poisoning the air and water we breath, and therefore the future of generations to follow?
On a misery spectrum, COVID-19 displays many a dark spectres of deaths, massive infection, suspension of daily activities, closures of offices, more importantly, paralysis of market, trade and commerce.
As we humans have become so accustomed and dependent on the market economy and profit-making, we forget the bad consequences caused by consumerism and this same unrestrained market economy. Hence, we refrain from talking about the serious and adverse impacts of them on life and health of all of us.
Once this killer virus is gone, and businesses come back to their normal places, we will start exploiting Mother Nature again. Towards making up for the losses suffered, we are going to produce more toxic substances making the environment dirtier, endangering other life forms and ourselves, and indeed in nature itself.
The rapid rise in extraction of natural resources from 22 billion tons in 1970 to 70 billion tons in 2010 and to about 180 billion tons annually currently is simply frightening. The world emitted 37 billion tons of CO2 in 2017. Consequently, global solid waste generation is on a pace to increase 70% by 2025, rising from 3.5 million tons per day in 2010 to more than 6 million tons in 2025 making unclean Mother Earth beyond easy redemption. The global cost of dealing with all that trash is rising too; from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025, with the sharpest cost increases in developing countries.
The earth is losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually impacting increased greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, disruption of water cycles and water scarcity, increased soil erosion, disrupted livelihoods and overall ecosystem of the blue planet.
Human wants are unlimited and this greed always confuse us what our real needs are or should be. Usually, we want to gather much things as we can for ourselves. Through the commerce of selling and buying activities, humans work to get more than what they had before, and this is what they call profit. People now even sell vital organs such as kidneys for this profit.
Modern education has been industrialized and it has encouraged market, profit and making new ideas or products, sometimes out of thin air to sell to someone. But the consequence of such a market is also a growing inequality in society. If we all have the same amount of wealth and well-being, no one will sell and buy things unnecessarily.
Coffin makers are not happy when fewer deaths happen. Hence, do we need to maintain a potential gap between where the demand and supply flow to make market dynamics always profitable? The simple fact is that the market economy is vigorously selling products to the consumers with persuasive advertisement taking advantage of the psychology of “unlimited human wants”. The market economy has ensured this is done without disturbing interferences from the governments.
Therefore, to make money, in the process, the resources and energy are snatched ever more freely from Mother Nature falsely believing these are unlimited, and consume them ignoring that our offspring also need these same limited resources.
For sure, the market economy always should take into account the fact that the growth capacity of a balloon is limited, and hence cannot be inflated beyond a certain bulging size. The frequent forgetfulness introduced by profit hungers makes growth mere bubbles. That’s why now and again the bursts bring all sort of miseries to the highly industrialized world.
The author is Asst Prof, International College, the University Suwon, S Korea