Dear Greenhouse Gases,
Let me first introduce myself. My name is SARS-CoV-2, but you can call me Coronavirus 2. As my name implies, I am a virus, a strain of SARS-CoV-1, possibly born in a wet animal market in Wuhan, China, in early December 2019. I have gone through my usual mutations and I am now reproducing fast.
I am writing to let you know the truth behind my plans. I am sure it will help to plot your trajectory.
Like you, I am tiny, and I can also do a lot of harm to human beings. I infect human cells quickly and attack the respiratory system, though in severe cases I can also damage the heart and other vital organs.
I have already killed more than 50,000 human beings.
By now some countries are reaching the peak of infections. I spread swiftly. Because of the lack of health centers that could deal with my symptoms, people in all four corners of the world have been “locked down” into what is called a quarantine. They have been practicing “social distance” to avoid being infected, while still being deeply affected by uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. Some are already feeling my power: they are running out of air. On the other hand, different animals, plants and elements that constitute the essence of human life on Earth are finally managing to breathe.
Although you are not a contagious virus, your emissions have also peaked in many different cities around the world. You can kill a lot of humans through what is called climate change, but most of them tend to deny your destructive potential. The consequences of having more and more of you released into the atmosphere have been emerging gradually. Scientists, activists, and arctic populations have been sounding the alarm for years, as those living on low-lying Pacific islands. You may even extinguish humanity if nothing is done.
In the meantime, citizens of rich countries in Europe and North America managed to postpone the whole climate issue as if it belonged far in the distant future. It is terrible, they acknowledge, but too large, too remote to deal with.
I have come along to help.
I will show the rich countries that it is possible to change, to take action, to reduce the risks you pose to humankind. Will they finally heed the call?
Flights were canceled and a significant number of people is working from home. There is less travel and so fewer emissions. There are no possibilities other than eating from local producers and taking care of one’s family. Governments rediscovered their old confidence to take decisive action in light of my presence. I am happy to see countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom – which during the last 40 years entrusted planning to markets and private enterprises – contemplating universal basic income. A new vision may still be possible.
In the end, I am not locking humans down, I’m locking the system that has caused your emissions to peak: the so-called capitalism.
I am sure that humans will be desperate to return to social life after they are able to control me, but I really hope they do that based on new priorities – such as socializing and enjoying arts locally, planting seeds and watering trees; and letting go of the 20th-century vision of the future based on unlimited growth, unlimited travel, and unlimited consumption. Enjoying life’s simple things, the ingredients for the happiness they keep searching for.
I expect that the health crisis I am generating will help them avoid the climate crisis you will generate. It is possible to shift during troubled times – everything is up in the air: you, me, human lives. Maybe now they will have the chance to reconfigure before the pieces fall back into place. To re-examine personal and governmental choices, to exercise the being of human by becoming with others.
I am making physical cleaning mandatory, but I am also cleaning old habits, the atmosphere, the seas, scrubbing human minds so they can finally breathe from their hearts. There was once a silent spring; this is what comes after silence.
Who were they kidding? Humanity was already sick way before my time. I am the symptom, not the cause. They are the reason for the disappearance of the birds. The cause of illegal trade in wildlife, the reason animal-derived products are widely available – peacocks, porcupines, bats, and rats. They are the millions running away from deserted lands, burning forests, drowned islands.
But they are also me; energy and dust, fire and waves, chaos and order, bees and flowers, atoms and molecules.
And even if they kill me – as they have done with many other than human beings – they will fail time and time again if they are not able to destroy the reasons that make them anxious.
I am sounding the alarm from something much more harmful than me… themselves. Hopefully, they will not snooze it.
It is time for humans to mutate.