Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Raymond Williams once famously observed that ‘nature’ is perhaps ‘the most complex word in the language’. He is no doubt correct when we take into account the fact that ever since the philosophical discoveries of the Age of Enlightenment, the very concept of nature has been set in a binary yet hierarchical opposition to humanity, and we have colonised it as our own ‘othered’ space, to rule over for all eternity.
But over the last few years generally, and months specifically, we have begun to see how the fate of the Earth is very much out of our hands, and that the gluttonous desires of man will not be endured by nature indefinitely. Today, for example, over two billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation, leaving them more vulnerable to the bodily effects of human pollution, particularly regarding the regular consumption of water polluted with toxic chemicals.
More recently, we have also seen the devastating consequences of cruel ‘wildlife markets’, which in parts of Asia extract wild bats, lizards and scorpions from their natural habitats to sell for human consumption. It is one such wildlife market in Wuhan, eastern China, that is thought to be the origin of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
As much of the globe’s human population adjusts to life under lockdown, we are simultaneously, if inadvertently, constructing a new relationship with nature. Many more of us are stepping outside for daily exercise and experiencing a radical reclamation of land and skies by nature. As the Telegraph has visually documented, from India to Italy, wildlife is making a stunning return to some of the most densely populated parts of the world while people are forced to stay indoors. The canals of Venice are experiencing a surge in rare fish and swan sightings, while vulnerable sea turtles have returned to the Bay of Bengal as tourists stay away from their nesting grounds.
However, as infection and fatality rates begin to flatline across many developed nations that have seemingly passed their respective Coronavirus peaks, the catastrophic human instinct to conquer and consume has already begun to rear its ugly head once more. While we near the end of our time hiding inside our homes from an invisible enemy created through our unhealthy appetite for ripping wildlife out of its home, we are preparing blueprints for our rapid return to our place as apex predator of the Earth.
Journalists are disseminating propaganda for hyper-tourism, notorious for its stretching and straining of not only local businesses but also nature’s sustainable capabilities in terms of regulating levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Japanese sports officials continue to aggressively prepare for the delayed Tokyo Olympics while the IOC neglects its guilt in awarding the Games to countries without sufficient sports infrastructure, which has seen a rise in localised deforestation, illegal dumping, and polluted water. While well-meaning citizens adapt their diets to help end our reliance on a historically meat-centred food system that contributes to sicknesses, Burger King chains, known for their beef supply chains which heavily rely on astronomical amounts of deforestation and water usage, have begun to reopen across the UK without adapting their dismally neglected sustainability pledges.
Future generations will forever be grateful to us if we now take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embrace simplified, localised living that does not rely on a savage abuse of our only planet. The majority of profit-oriented media networks, political officials, and multinational corporations have declined to take this unique chance to adapt long-term strategy and change the human direction for good, but individuals, families, and communities can still embrace a better future by adopting a sensible, if radical, plan for less international travel and short-term, single-use consumption over the coming years. And, in the profound words of Ellen Dean of Wuthering Heights, ‘don’t forget resolutions formed in the hour of fear‘.