At the outset, it should be mentioned that I am a Software Engineer – not a virologist or an epidemiologist or a paleontologist. These are my ruminations. They are not “substantiated” by research. Hopefully, the theories expounded here would result in additional research and corroboration.
There has been an abundance of articles written about the origin, the impact, the responses and the containment of COVID-19. Governments and Agencies have adopted different approaches to combat it – from travel bans to quarantines to even declaring Sunday, March 15 as a National Day of Prayer (by US President Mr. Donald J Trump). This is not intended to be yet another such article – regurgitating information that we have been bombarded with over the last few weeks.
There have been occasions in the past when entire species have been made extinct in a single fell swoop. On the extinction of dinosaurs, the theory is that a 6 to 9-mile wide asteroid hurtled into Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This collision would have released the same amount of energy as 100 tera tons of TNT (or the equivalent of a billion times the energy of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). In turn, this resulted in geochemical and climatic disruptions that devastated the ecology in the “short term”. The extinction provided evolutionary opportunities and, as a result, new forms of species emerged. In a sense, this may have been Nature’s course correction because of possible imbalances caused by dinosaurs.
Just in the weeks since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a dramatic impact on the carbon footprint and a significant dip in greenhouse gas emissions. In a sense, what the Paris Climate accord could not accomplish (due to countries not willing to participate) and what young Greta Thunberg could not accomplish (for holding world leaders accountable for their inadequate responses to climate change), a microbe has shown that it is possible to do.
In this “consumption economy” there is no denying that we have been conducting our lives that abuse natural resources – thus resulting in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. There is nothing to “celebrate” about the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. It has already killed over 2,500 outside China and over 3,200 in China. With the restrictions (mandatory “social distancing”, “shelter in place” orders) put in place, we will definitely come out from the other side of this global pandemic. Hopefully, it has taught us enough to change our behaviors – resulting in having a lasting impact on climate change. Perhaps this is Nature’s “course correction”.
Until then, please adopt the general precautions that have been recommended by the CDC:
- Follow the culture of “Namaste”
- Practice hand-hygiene at all times
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness (coughing, sneezing)
- Wear a mask only If you have respiratory symptoms (cough, running nose)
- Be sure to wipe down surfaces that you touch frequently, like doorknobs, keyboards, light switches, and even your cell phone
- If you are out of your home for any reason, please avoid directly touching “high touch” areas, like elevator buttons or stair railings. If you need to touch them, use a tissue, a sleeve, or something else to put a barrier between your body and the surface
- Maintain safe food practices and only eat food that has been prepared hygienically
Try and keep things “normal” as much as possible. If you usually have friends over for dinner over the weekend, try and “get together” digitally (using FaceTime or Zoom). If you take a walk after dinner, continue to do so. Remember to keep 6 feet between you and other people.
Here’s wishing each and everyone one of you good health and safety.
[Prakash Narayan serves in the Executive Committee of ATEA. A BITS Pilani alumnus, Narayan received an MS in CS from IIT, Delhi. He worked for over two decades at Sun Microsystems, before he co-founded Micello. He is a member of the Angel Investor group Keiretsu Forum, and also volunteers his time in several organizations, including TiE Silicon Valley.]