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The Long-Awaited Path to Optimism

Written By: Jesús Parrilla, Principal, Luxury Frontiers

As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, so too does our collective stress and anxiety. In the face of hard times, however, it is important to also recognize the opportunity for change and the urgency and primacy of reorienting ourselves in nature.

Navigating this new world will be easier said than done, of course, and my heart aches for those facing sickness, unemployment, and economic hardship. But just as I see pain and suffering in the human world, I watch as the natural world also cries out in pain. Last year alone, we saw bushfires ravage Australia, catastrophic floods hit India and Italy, and temperatures climb to a record-breaking 21-degrees Celsius in the Arctic. Clearly, we’ve done considerable damage to our natural ecosystems.

Earlier this week, CNN published an article about bats—which are believed to be the source of COVID-19—and the role humans have played in the dislocation of their ecosystems and the eventual spread of disease. Andrew Cunningham, a Professor of Wildlife Epidemiology at the Zoological Society of London, commented: “It’s easy to point the finger at the host species, but actually it’s the way we interact with [bats] that has led to the pandemic spread of the pathogen.”

Like Cunningham, I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic reflects humanity’s abusive relationship with one another, our planet, and all of its living creatures. Guided by pride and greed, we have pushed our fragile ecosystems closer to the edge and endangered all forms of living life by building roads, mining sacred lands, deforesting precious territories, clearing land for cattle farming and agriculture development, and eradicating wildlife and flora.

In such a moment of ecological crisis, I can’t help but think of a conversation I had with a Mamo—a spiritual leader of the Kogi people—in Colombia’s isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta several years back. In no uncertain terms, he told me that all imbalances in modern life can be traced back to the moment when we adopt reckless attitudes toward Mother Earth.

But if there is anything to learn from observing nature, it is that the natural world is resilient—and if we change our collective attitudes toward our natural ecosystems, using this moment as an opportunity for a reset, I am hopeful that we can turn things around. This is a wake-up call to live a simpler life that’s in greater harmony with Mother Earth, and I pray that each of us is using this time to reflect on ways we can affect positive change once normal life resumes.