I am not afraid of the pandemic; I am afraid that nature has started to relate to us the way we relate to it. It seems as though chaos has taken over the world. Natural disasters of unprecedented magnitude are occurring in multiple places simultaneously: unheard-of floods in some places, unparalleled fires in other places, sometimes a few hundred miles apart, and scorching heat in still other places. At the same time, the coronavirus is spreading once again with the Delta variant, and threatens to hamper humanity’s efforts to recover from the pestilence, while international relations are growing increasingly tense and volatile. But worst of all is the trend: it’s negative. Things are not only bad, but quickly worsening. If this trend continues, this awful summer will be the best summer of the rest of our lives.
We need to think things over. It makes no sense that so many crises are happening all over the world at the same time, that a virus is spreading around the world and disrupts the lives of every person in humanity, and all of these are unrelated incidents. Perhaps you can blame climate change for natural disasters, but you cannot blame it for countries threatening to destroy one another. There is a deeper cause to our woes, and we can find it only in ourselves. When we analyze all the crises, we find that the one common element in all of them is man. If we are the common element, then the reason for the crises is within us.
More precisely, the reason for the crises is how we relate to nature and to one another. Nature is a perfect system. It maintains a dynamic balance we call homeostasis. Contrary to nature’s balance, we seek only to take and overtake. We have forced our winner-take-all attitude on a system that operates in a manner that guarantees everyone’s sustenance and well-being. We injected hatred, violence, and meanness into a system that contained none of it before. Now it seems as though that system is paying us back in our own coin: the currency of hatred.
If we wish to avoid unimaginable catastrophes, we must abandon the currency we’ve used so far and adopt nature’s currency of mutual responsibility and consideration. We have to start respecting each other’s right to lead healthy and safe lives, without trying to subjugate them, but for this, we must feel that we are all parts of one, global system.
Our sages knew all this thousands of years ago, and talked about this with anyone who wished to listen. The Jerusalem Talmud, for example, offers a beautiful allegory about our connectedness: “If the writing warns about habitual mistreatment, vengeance and bearing a grudge should be forbidden also toward those who are not from among your nation. Also, how is it possible for one to forgive an affront? [Suppose] one is cutting meat, and the knife descends into his hand; would he consider avenging his hand and cutting his other hand for cutting the first? So is this matter … the rule is that one does not take revenge against one’s neighbor, for it is as though he is taking revenge against his own body” (Nedarim 9:4).
We really haven’t any time to waste. Nature is clearly signaling that it is losing patience. If it erupts in all its wrath, Covid will be the least of our worries. Therefore, to save ourselves, we must start treating each other, and all of nature, as we would like others to treat us.
Wildfires in Russia’s Republic of Karelia