Coronavirus thoughts

For the past 10 years, like other filmmakers, environmentalists and NGOs, I have been doing the “wrong things” for the “right reason”: adding strain to the Earth’s resources to help protect them, with intangible results. But that was before the crisis. Now we’re all living like hermits. We’re all doing the “right thing” of consuming minimal resources, for the “wrong reason”: an emergency situation that is costing the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Suddenly we are reminded that there is a “we”, not just an “I”, in that our decisions can mean life or death for others around us.

There is a silver lining: air pollution, which claims over 6 million lives in a business-as-usual year, is plummeting. Carbon emissions are drastically reduced as cars, ships, flights and industry grind to a halt. What is left of Nature recovers partially from our constant abuses. These meager consolations for the tragic human suffering are likely to be short-lived: it would take unprecedented political will to reshape our societies to be both fair and sustainable.

Natural disasters will become more frequent in a future where ecosystems are destroyed. We must protect nature, even if our intentions are only as narrow as to protect ourselves. Even if we fail to recognize nature’s inherent value and right to exist. Even if all we look at is the economic bottom line. We must not hope to return to normal, because normal was the enslavement of present and future generations, the discarding of nature as an externality, the consecration of individual greed.

We are capable, as a species, of putting our irrational urge for perpetual growth on hold, even if only for a short while. When we defeat the Covid-19, it will be thanks to individual awareness and personal decisions as well as to governments for imposing temporary confinement. We could solve climate change, plastic pollution and over-fishing with the same instrument: the stroke of a pen. We could do the right thing for the right reason.

This confinement period has also imposed some level of introspection to each of us. We have been forced to ask ourselves what we really want, what we really need. The noise is reduced and the signal becomes more clear. We have entered an ocean and are alone with our breathing. Whether we wait anxiously for the dive to end or we explore the surrounding depths of our inner space, we may recall some advice from scuba-diving: breathe deeply, calm yourself, be mindful.

~ Pierre-Yves Cousteau

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5 thoughts on “Coronavirus thoughts

  1. Very thought-provoking Pierre-Yves Cousteau. I hope the current pandemic brings lasting political will in the grander scheme of Life on Earth. Better than we have known it. Yes, we can all seek our individual role to play going forward, and sometimes the power of one can prevail.
    With fond memories of diving with you in Galapagos 4 years ago. June Addison, still diving at age 69.

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  2. Thank you for those enlightened thoughts. I have read this post three times. It comes in echo to many of my progressive and conservationist friends’ comments about the situation and how we should keep in mind not only the climate and environmental issues that will shape our future and that of our children, but also the possibility more such pandemics will emerge if we don’t reevalue our relation with nature.

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  3. Bonjour Monsieur Cousteau,
    Votre message sonne juste, pourtant il faudrait qu’il atteigne les hautes sphères où l’on décide de l’avenir de l’homme en lui dictant une ligne de conduite qui s’éloigne considérablement de la réalité naturelle.
    Tant que la production, l’incitation à la consommation ou le besoin d’être toujours plus nombreux, n’aura pas quitté l’objectif des décideurs mondiaux, la

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  4. pardon ! (suite )
    …terre ne pourra pas suffire à nourrir et protéger l’Homme.
    Peut-être que d’une certaine façon, l’apparition des virus est un moyen de défense envers l’être humain beaucoup trop présent à la surface de ce monde ou tout au moins avec son organisation actuelle.
    Chaque jours des êtres vivants, animaux, végétaux, payent un lourd tribu devant l’ignorance et l’indifférence général, pourtant nous ne sommes ici que des invité et c’est ce que les virus nous rappellent chaque jour.
    L’homme sera-t-il interpréter le message ?
    Merci à vous.
    Franck.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Our irrational urge for perpetual growth on hold, even if only for a short while”. I know you probably meant economic growth. Just hope your love for nature isn’t above love for mankind. Whenever nature is deified, humans will be seen as a threat and this is troubling. I have seen this discourse from your late father before and this is often left in the air for people with an agenda to grab. Just pay attention.

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