The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

COVID-19: A Doom Messenger or a Game Changer?

Photo: Deccan Herald

By Anam

Being touted as the next worst crisis since WWII, Corona pandemic has emerged as a global threat to humanity. It took over 200,000 years of human history for the World’s population to reach 1 billion and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion that now stands at around 7.8 billion as of March 2020. An RNA virus as miniscule as 120 nanometers, invisible to the human eyes has wreaked havoc since November 2019 when Wuhan (China) witnessed its first series of patients infected with this respiratory disorder, followed by its global spread in countries the world over. Despite all technological and biological advancements, around 1 million people have been infected globally and the total number of deaths at present has crossed 65,000. Significantly the mortality graph is heavily leaned towards the elderly, aged 65 and above with compromised immunity. The virus can sit and sustain on both animate and inanimate objects for days besides spreading through oral micro-droplets. Frequent washing of hands with soaps, sanitizing the living area and social distancing are prescribed to contain the impact as no vaccine is yet available for this novel epidemic.

There are however deeper questions too, regarding the larger objective of human society and the fallout of its vertical development model. Unplanned concrete cities with disproportionate population index and ghettoized growth graph have increased pressure on select pockets, leaving aside the rural areas for all practical purposes like education, medical facilities, job opportunities and better standards of life. In addition, such zoonotic diseases highlight the ever-increasing intrusion between wildlife and human society at an alarming rate since most cases have been reported from developed cities as against the suburban or rural areas. Consequently, the expanding sky-scrappers along with high population density have thrown open a field ideally conducive for such pandemic as well as other natural disasters. The scenario in old cities of the metropolis reflects readymade hotspots for a number of man-made and natural hazards. Claustrophobic buildings, narrow lanes and unhygienic living conditions turn them into difficult and challenging sites for rescue operation in case of any emergency, should there be. Ironically the scenario is still growing strong in the stated direction without any respite in the offing. The question then arises whether this vertical model of development is suitably sustainable in the longer run?

The humanity finds itself at a crossroad. Taming the nature for self-fulfillment appears to have reached its brim with resultant global warming, climate change and receding forest cover. We have been caught red handed this time in a self-woven network of circumstances. Is the graph of narrow vertical economic growth fast reaching its exhaustion point? Is the overemphasis of urbanization on select locales, like the idea of smart cities, leading to functional and psychological disconnect with places and people in leftover areas? Is such developmental design essentially based on exploitative model of human and natural resources?

Healthy ecology promotes functional exchange of matter and energy among its stakeholders and things do not happen in isolation. Nature is a complex lattice comprising of animal kingdom, plant kingdom and microorganisms in a medium of abiotic components such as water, air, temperature, soil, etc. The frailty of existing development model inherently makes it prone and porous to calamities. The frequent recurrence of natural disasters like Tsunami, Earthquake, Flood, Cyclone, Forest fires, etc. are living testimonies to this stated imbalance. Since the fictionality of our separate clusters have been exposed, it’s time we develop a new paradigm of living altogether. Horizontal development may be a pragmatic approach wherein infrastructure, connectivity, education and health facilities, and resource-centric industrial establishment in diverse locales might ensure greater public participation. It would not only reduce the burden of the metropolis; it would also ensure even and optimum development of the society. This will in turn bring in substantial easing with regards to transportation and human migration.

Covid-19 as a global crisis has faded the distinction between the so-called first, second and third worlds. The entire humanity appears to be vulnerable and helpless against this tiny, mutating organism, whether wild or genetically engineered. Notwithstanding, there lies a message within the capsid. It is time we stay bonded as Homo Sapiens and be judicious in resource exploitation, throwing open equal opportunity and accessibility for one and all. There appears to be a definite lead role of governmental agencies, academic institutions, big corporate houses and NGOs in this regard which might usher in a new beginning.

Anam is a PhD student at EFL University, Hyderabad, India. She was awarded the Israel Government Fellowship (2018-19) for her research on Israeli-Palestinian Literature at Tel Aviv University by MFA, Israel Government. Her current research revolves around the civilizational identity of Jews and Arabs in the Mediterranean/Levant. She is also interested in philosophical debates around culture, Identity and world ethics.


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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.

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