The State, Health and Climate: a Triangle behind Pandemic Coronavirus- Imran Nazir


Human civilization has gone through crisis over the passage of time. Few could be overcome while others left unresolved yet. Coronavirus is also a crisis of our time. Interestingly crisis overlaps with other crisis. I am pretty confident that Coronavirus would also remain one of the pain taking crises for long if we fail to solve other overlapping crises. To me, climate change is the number one to solve many of today’s problems including Coronavirus.

We have rarely (few exceptions) seen any codification of human rights by central authorities before the emergence of the nation states in 1648. Undoubtedly, human beings’ physical security, in other words, right to live a healthy life is and should be the fundamental of all civil rights. Regrettably nation states often by themselves or by their powerful elites violated codified rights. Elite chosen wars have never benefited masses rather it destroyed their lives, livelihood and dreams. Millions of people die every year due to unhygienic water, toxic air by causing other deadly diseases where deaths by war and armed conflict are far more in number. If we consider states as guardian, most of them are utterly failing to provide a comfortable healthy life to their citizens. Now all states are seemingly try hard to show solidarity with citizens. But where were the states before Coronavirus? We have seen most of the victims of coronavirus are prior sick with various diseases. We are living in a world of sickness, both physical and mental. That is why pandemics can take more and more lives easily. States broadly fail to prevent such pandemics. It reminds me Economics’ classic butter and gun model. Nation states prefer to invest in military sector while welfare projects for citizens are neglected. If you go and ask military personals even in the time Coronavirus about their preparation against external enemies, they would loudly show a list of potential weapons to fight with. But what is case of human soldiers, are the equipped with personal protective equipment to treat this deadly soft battle? Are there enough ICU facilities only for 18 thousands out of 18 crore? Why US nurses are agitated with inadequate PPE supply? This is fragile reality for irrespective rich-poor states. Bangladesh is not an exception. Military spending is getting even if there is no war but budget cut in health sector is very common.

We are facing the consequences. People are dying but no army and weapon can minimize the injury. Protecting border is not the ultimate task of government rather improving the mind and physique of all citizens would be meaningful. No one would cross border hoping a shining life abroad. Fight will stop over artificial borders when people are satisfied from both sides with their basic living standard. Do not confuse my pleas with vague Marxist egalitarian society or utopia. It is just about a just world with rightful demands. All we need is only to make the right choice from different variables concerning our future.
World Health Organization and various health research organizations have tried to link climate change with pandemics. Now we cannot negate their findings. Climate skeptics denied any possibility of human health risk relating climate change in 2001 when IPCC’s scientists warned. Few years later Climate Vulnerable Forum published a report in COP16 claiming 350,000 annually climate induced deaths and they also predicted it would be double by 2020 and triple by 2030. In recent case, just heat waves in France took 1500 lives within two months in 2019. Similar heat waves in Europe in 2003 caused 30,000. These deaths are the consequences of our deeds against the mother earth. However, these deaths could not put memorable strain in political leaders. US pull out from Paris climate accord reflects the negligence of a so called “prudent” state. On the other hand, we do not know the death figure in Sub Saharan Africa due to their poor economic status in the community of the world. No one mourns over a poor’s death. Similarly uncountable people die around the world because of poor environmental conditions. Ironically innocents are the main victims of climate change where affluent pollutant societies have less to care. Just remember the massacre of Red Indians after the invasion of Europeans in the middle age. They paid the highest price. However, recent climatic developments in US lower regions and Europe compel us to conclude that no one is above the danger zone of climate change. Cyclones, storms and tornado frequently hit sea side countries. Despite all of these sufferings, governments sit back and relax seeing material development! Unfortunately a number of paid scholars blandish GDP as a marker of all wellbeing on this earth. It is hard to avoid the bewildering addiction of affluence even if they are risking our existence. Cree Indians rightly said, “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

Climate change would affect infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, CARS. Scientists have found a number of anonymous diseases in melting glacier. Since ice is melting rapidly and a number of unknown dangerous Viruses staying under the ice in North Pole are being spread through water, it would not be hard to reach human habitats through seas, rivers and canals. Studies have also proved a strong connection between excessive rainfall, humidity and malaria. So we cannot rule out any connection between climate change and Coronavirus. Deforestation around the world has caused human contact with wild animals which also caused possible spread of bacteria and virus. Regrettably commodification of wild animals like bats in market is also responsible for the spread of Coronavirus. On the other hand, climate change has damaged human health which makes us defenseless to diseases. If we clearly analyze age and background of deaths due to Covid-19, strong evidence is shown that prior sick and aged person are more vulnerable. Just imagine a world where 90% children breathe toxic air. Their lungs are supposed to be weak to defend diseases. This is how climate change is making pandemics invincible.
Coronavirus has brought a deeming prospect in positive climate change. Since major cities are now in lockdown, drastic fall in using fossil-fuel generated a favorable condition around the world. This is for the first time since the Second World War; this planet is experiencing lower carbon emission. Thanks to coronavirus for slowing down polluting giant machines and bringing fresh air around the cities. Even city dwellers in Dhaka city witnessed a full moonlit night this year after a long time. It seems an invasion of nature to gain its rightful place. But it is human being who leads the world conquering giants, witches, forests, mountains and seas in history. This victorious mindset led to think human beings as the most valuable animal on earth and subordinated all members of bio-community. By contrast, coronavirus helped nature to regain their places but for how long?

We human beings are cruel indeed to destroy ourselves. But we understand that our existence depends on healthy environment. We cannot live without them. Coronavirus forcefully stopped are cruel activities to nature for a time being. What if we prudently managed it before the eruption of pandemics like Corona? We are still worrying about our GDP percentage, not death numbers. This article has discussed how climate change makes us defenseless to pandemics and at the same time helps to spread pandemics. States’ role to fore here since it is the organizational form of current world. Regrettably world leaders have dilly-dalliedto bring concrete climate deals for decades. Coronavirus has given us a unique opportunity to halt negative climate change. It is also leaving my techniques and lessons to us. If we persistently insist on our GDP, surely we will see more pain staking crisis in future. It would become an irony if we really try to fill the economic vacuum by polluting more after post-Corona world. Firm commitment of citizens filtering the wills of leaders can only bring a long term solution to the pandemics otherwise they will frequently come and destroy our civilization for sure.

The author of this article is an undergraduate student at University of Dhaka.