COVID-19 has brought untold misery, restrictions and financial ruin to lots of individuals and industries. Till date, we cannot move around freely. The world to a large extent has changed forever.
The pandemic appears to be in no mood to go away. Scientists are predicting worse pandemics if human beings don’t change their way of living and continue to endanger the earth.
The change is needed now. Experts say that if we can live in a sustainable way for the next 10 years, perhaps we will save the earth for a hundred more. The coronavirus, a microscopic being, has brought the entire world to its knees and destroyed lives and livelihoods. It should make us humble and reduce our ego as human beings. If we keep killing bats, birds, monkeys, crocodiles, rhinos and other animals, the virus that transmits from animal to animal will transmit from animal to human beings.
We need to realise that no other animal on the planet destroys the earth. We humans with superior intelligence need to protect the earth and not destroy it so that our future generations can live safely. We do the exact opposite.
All nations, big or small, must realise that we cannot keep endangering the earth, cutting forests, killing billions of animals every year and using fossil fuels. There are 100 million different species coexisting with us on our planet. Between 10,000 and 1,00,000 species are becoming extinct each year. For instance, species of bees, which help with cross fertilisation as a result of which flowers and fruits grow, are vanishing. If we keep endangering the earth, we will not have some very essential animals, trees, fruits and flowers that help us live, breathe and eat.
We are also seeing huge climate change. The results are manifested in bushfires in Australia, the huge blazes in the West Coast of the US and even in Siberia, floods in Germany and glaciers melting. The rain forests are disappearing at a huge speed. The green cover of the earth at Amazon is in serious danger. There is increased global warming.
This is not a problem of one country. It is a global problem. It is important for the leaders of all countries to come together and create a vision for the future and a strategic plan to handle climate change, reduce inequality, control the present pandemic, avoid such health crises in the future and reduce poverty. They need to work together to ensure human rights and end wars to give peace a chance.
The refugee problem that we are witnessing all over the world is another alarming feature. Most of it is a result of poverty and wars. The refugees are citizens migrating out of desperation, just to live on the planet. If inequality persists in such an enormous proportion, then no one will be able to stop migration from less fortunate to more fortunate nations.
For every nation to live in a sustainable manner, the rich nations must provide aid to the poorer countries to build infrastructure, create educational and health facilities, and supply them with skills training and R&D to prosper.
At one time the US, UK and many countries of Europe had this consciousness to develop every nation. They believed that if everyone is educated and prosperous, there will be less population, less migration, less poverty and lots of happiness and peace. It was an egalitarian consciousness.
A new school of conservative economists wrote against giving aid to poor countries. Their thesis was that aid creates dependency. Sure, it will create some dependency, but it will also build capacity to develop. They created sufficient confusion for countries to reduce aid.
It is also a fact that the extremely poor are easy targets for terrorist groups and other deviant forms of congregations to enlist as cadre and use as weapons of destruction.
Another area that needs to be looked into seriously for sustainable growth is the role of industries in climate change. They need to behave in a responsible manner and not endanger the earth. Many industries all over the world like Danone, Levis, Shell, etc., have changed their practice to act responsibly and grow in a sustainable manner.
Many spiritual reformers like Sri Ramakrishna have always propagated oneness and inclusion as a way of life. He taught that all human beings of all faiths are the same. He preached serving humankind, especially the poor, as the greatest religious activity. He was a great believer in austerity and preached about consuming as much as the body needs to live well; increasing our desires and wants will only ruin the mind and create anxiety.
Jesus Christ similarly said that God made himself in the image of man and, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." When we love our neighbour we cannot be at war with them.
There needs to be much greater awareness created in schools and colleges, industries and all walks of life about spirituality, sustainable development, international peace and cooperation. We need peace and sustainability, not wars and over consumerism.
(The writer is founder and CEO, Sri Ramakrishna International Institute of Management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)