What did COVID-19 come to teach us?


Just a tiny being (thing?) and getting so much attention, causing so much chaos!

But is this about the virus?

The virus is new (as opposed to so much misinformation that says that we humans have lived with viruses for thousands of years and we all have this virus), and it is spreads fast, almost everyone can get it, not only from direct contact with others but also from surfaces (it seems to survive for hours). It’s mortality is higher than influenza and SARS and it seems to affect more those with already compromised or weak immune systems and the elder.

Some of the governments responses have been insufficient and many, inefficient or controversial, as they may cause more harm than good.

For me, the main issue is not the virus itself, or how many it has the potential to infect or even kill. We have lived through pandemics before, and there are many other things (some endemic) that kill or disable more people and don’t even discriminate on age: think not just influenza (which kills thousands every year), but substance abuse, domestic abuse, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitizing, climate change related disasters, suicide caused by disconnection, depression and the lack of care of our communities and on and on…the list is too long for this post.

But the response to this virus is already causing more disruptions, some of which we may not see their full impact until days, weeks or even months from now: the closing of schools and businesses, the cancelation of travel, the closure of borders, the cancelation of big gatherings and events, the imposed social distancing, the anxious shopping for supplies and hoarding, the fall of the financial markets…all of this is already impacting people’s wellbeing, job and financial security, relationships, plans…

Th virus is also exposing the weakenesses and strenghts in the systems we rely onw: it is showing both the lack of resilience and the potential for caring and comming together. It is showing that governments and leaders have the potential to shut down and disregard the economic monster of capitalism (something they strangely are reluctant to do in the face of the most threatening but seen as far away and abstract climate change)…

There are many from the community of permaculturists and regenerators who celebrate the slowdown of the economic system and potential collapse because of what means in terms of reduced pollution and CO2. Other communities of helpers are more concerned about the huge and inequal impact this will have on already vulnerable populations.

I have seen all type of responses: from panic to posts inviting people to ignore it, from those burdening the poor virus with all the sins of the world to those saying is innocuous and that the world is overreacting.

Some continue as business as usual, completely disregarding any bans, suggestions and warnings. Others run to the supermarkets emtying shelves and taking all they can, leaving nothing for their fellow community members.

I’ve seen the emerging of more fake and misleading news and “remedies”, as well as gurus who claim to know it all. Religious leaders ready to blame groups or use this to raise supporters…

Both extremes are irresponsible.

As with everything else, I’m being cautious and applying systems thinking to this: brushing it away is not understanding the complexity of the impacts.

Whatever we do now, this pandemic is upon us and will stay for a few more months. We are just starting to see the impacts. If the predictions are real, 30 to 70% of the entire population may get infected. Even if the mortality is kept low (let’s say, 1%), that means that 78,000,000 (78 million) people may die. To put this in perspective, around 60 million people “normally” die every year. The 78 million we are talking here are extra, which can get the mortality of 2020 to 138 million people.

But the disruptions on the systems most people depend on, from water to food to health supplies to transportation, healthcare and so on will be impacted for many weeks or months. And no matter how well governments respond (suspending mortgages and debt payments, financial aid packages, etc.), things will get really tough, particularly for those who are unprepared, and those who are vulnerable because of poverty, chronic issues, lack of resources, etc.

I personally think this virus has so much to expose about ourselves as individuals and communities.

It has the potential to challenge our values and beliefs as well as the systems we hae built (both sustainable and unsustainable) to the core, as well as our true capacity for compassion and understanding, for inclusion and care.

The true healers will now emerge, and the fake ones will be exposed, but may cause a lot of harm on the way…

To be completely honest, no amount of wilderness connection, yoga, vegan diet and grounding practices will “save” you: all those great things may make your immune and emotional systems strong, but they won’t save you from empty shelves, financial crashes and emerging conflicts from the people and systems around you. And they won’t save others if you expose yourself irresponsibly to the virus: you can become a carrier and put others in danger, and looking at yourself and your choices as the “right” ones just makes others miserable, so no help there unless you use these tools for good: how will you?

Similarly, permaculture and living in a sustainable or regenerative way won’t save you either: they will minimize the harm and give you tools to stay a bit better in many ways for some time, depending on how far you got with the creation of self-reliance. But they can become an issue if you are not ready to share skills and products with those who were not so ready or privileged to get to the land and grow their own food, etc. How can you use those skills and the things you have created to supprt others through this?

So this virus also comes to teach us about what does it mean to be selfless and truly care for community. It will show what we all are made of and whether we chose this path out of selfishness and self-righteousness or because you really care.

To me, this virus is a blessing: it will cause a lot of suffering and harm, and it will destroy many lives and things…but it will also show the way, for those who are open to look and show up with their true values, and those who are open to see the lessons in the middle of the chaos.

Remember: a virus is a natural occurrence, viruses have been part of life since the start of life, they are older than us and they have come and go many times. We may need to ask ourselves what this virus pandemic is exposing and what are its lessons.

The way we respond to this will build what comes next.




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