Paul KingsnorthI would like to tell you a few things about this virus and the lessons it should teach us, all the things we should be learning.
I would like to add my voice to the crowd and be heard above it.
I would like to say: fish have returned to the Venetian canals now that humans have stopped polluting them.
I would like to say: the clouds of air pollution over Italy and China have dissipated since people were prevented from causing them with their cars, planes, factories.
I would like to say: up to 80,000 premature deaths which would have been caused this way have probably been prevented in China by the shutdown of the economy.
I would like to say: carbon monoxide levels in the air above New York have collapsed by 50 percent in a single week.
I would like to say: Nature recovers swiftly when we stop our plundering of Her bounty.
I would like to say: lift your gaze, humans.
I would like to say: we can learn from this, we can change.
I would like to say: well, we had it coming.
I would like to say that I know what to do about all this, or what to learn. I would like to teach it to you so that you may learn too. I would like to be a prophet in a time when prophets are so sorely needed.
Unfortunately, I am not qualified for this role. I don’t know anything at all, and I am learning, painfully, that this was my lesson all along.
I don’t know anything at all.
My society does not know anything at all.
Now I will say what I believe: that this civilization will not learn anything from this virus. All this civilization wants to do is to get back to normal. Normal is cheap flights and cheap lattes, normal is Chinese girls sewing our T-shirts under armed guard, normal is biblical bushfires and barrels of oil, normal is city breaks and international conferences and African children poisoning their bodies sorting the plastic we have dumped on their coastlines, normal is nitrite pollution and burning stumps and the death of the seas.
We made this normal, and we do not know how to unmake it, or—whisper it—we do not want to.
But Earth does, and it will.
It turns out that we were never in control at all.
Today the sky is once again so brilliantly sharp and blue, it almost hurts. We are going through the motions, breakfast, work, some exercise, garden, lunch, reading, talking with family and friends, work, dinner. It is not bad, no no. There is little we miss and yet, we miss everything. More than ever I believe we are on a threshold of sorts and fail to see clearly. We are waiting. I think the whole world is waiting.