In an article published in the June/July 2020 issue of the Comboni mission magazine ‘Worldwide’, Fr Sean McDonagh writes about the issue of Covid-19 and biodiversity.
The article is titled ‘The Cost of Our Misbehaviour’ and examines the way humans have destroyed much of the natural world and continue to engage in factory farming in the belief that it will not negatively impact on our health and wellbeing.
The Covid-19 pandemic, according to Fr McDonagh, tells us this is untrue.
In the article, Fr McDonagh writes, “Since January 2020, the media has followed the spread of Covid-19, which began in China, then moved on to Korea, Italy, Spain, Britain and the United States.”
“In all of these countries, it is possible to apply social distancing and wash one’s hands, but it is not possible for the T’boli people of Southeast Mindanao in the Philippines whose lives I shared as a Columban missionary during the 1980s. How can one apply social distancing or wash one’s hands when ten people share a two-room house without running water?”
“This is not just a problem for the T’boli, but for one quarter of the world’s population who do not have access to running water and adequate sanitation. It is feared that, given how contagious Covid-19 is, it will wreak havoc in India, Latin America and Africa and cause millions of deaths because their public health systems are rudimentary.”
Discussing pandemics and the destruction of biodiversity, Fr McDonagh refers to Austen Ivereigh’s interview with Pope Francis published in The Tablet in April in which the Pontiff spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pope Francis called to mind the Spanish phrase “God always forgives, we forgive but, sometimes, nature never forgives.”
Fr McDonagh writes, “However, in his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (To the City and to the World), address given after Easter Sunday Mass on 12 April 2020, Pope Francis focused exclusively on the human element of the crisis. He acknowledged that “the world already (is) faced with epochal challenges and (is) now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our human family.”
“He continued saying that ‘this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties.’ All this is true, as people are shocked by the pain and death of loved ones and the economic chaos that Covid-19 is causing.”
“However, many commentators on Covid-19 fail to make any connection between it and the destruction of the natural world which, in little more than two decades, has given us Covid-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, Zika, and H1N1.”
Read the article Worldwide June-July 2020 PP12-13
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