When a mother gives birth to her child and nurtures, feeds and protects it, she often does it unreservedly. Perhaps deep inside her heart, she expects some sort of reciprocity, either in the form of attention and acknowledgement or love and care, especially at times when she needs it most.
Following the Second World War, the post-Fordist era gave rise to Capitalism that turned out to be a never-ending race for bigger and better balance sheets, greater Returns on Investment (ROIs) and the rise of competition to consume the resources that accumulated on Earth over the last few millennia.
In this process, the majority seem to have forgotten the unwritten law of nature – Reciprocity. We humans have the greatest ability to find an excuse for any transgression, mistake or wrongdoing and have the propensity to move on in life as if nothing ever happened.
During the course of the last 80-100 years, Mother Earth has witnessed, and felt, colossal damage inflicted upon her in multiple forms, be it the race to build more automobiles and to pollute the air with fossil fuels; to dig deep into the Earth’s oceans for cheaper gases and energy resources; or, from destroying age old agro-economic systems to the rise genetically modified foods. The core purpose of this unchecked growth and development has been to produce more money for the stakeholders.
The air I breathed on the 23rd of March 2020 was the purest in my living memory; I rarely saw such a clear sky in Lahore. I have never before heard so many birds chirping, humming, and singing. It is indeed very refreshing. Was the absence of smoke due to the hiatus of thousands of airplanes that polluted the air with their exhaust fumes or is the purity of air now being observed due to fewer automobiles that used to honk and muffle the air 24/7 on the roads in the vicinity of my house? The present pandemic – some call it a well-knit conspiracy, while others a failure on the part of pharmaceutical companies and health systems of nations – is, in my view, a nudge, or a jolt, for us humans to correct our course. Look no further than the volatile weather in the last few years, when we encountered record breaking hurricanes (or tsunamis), floods, droughts and wildfires across the globe.
In the book Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future, Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Lab along with co-author Jeff Howe writes, “In an increasingly unpredictable world moving ever more quickly, a detailed map may lead you deep into the woods at an unnecessarily high cost. A good compass though, will always take you where you need to go”.
As the pundits are predicting, the crisis will soon be over, and life will eventually return to normalcy and we all (who survive) will be able to leave behind a bitter memory. At least we will try. In my view it’s perhaps a call for reciprocity and it carries a message: Save the planet and correct the course. Keep its air cleaner, revive the balance of its ecosystem, learn how the Earth gave its inhabitants food to eat and water to drink. Don’t abuse its sanctity, its beauty.
Individually, and collectively, let’s all make a pledge to minimise our food waste and use only as much as is essentially required to mulch our plants and gardens. Try and experience the nomadic way of living by staying closer to nature. Encourage architecture based on Eco-living in our lives and working spaces. Shift to a plant-based diet, use means of travel with the least carbon emission (or none), travel only when absolutely necessary and try to repair the relationship between Mother Earth and its inhabitants. As Bill Gates said “The best way to forecast the future is to create it.”