As people are confined in their homes and have nothing better to do but tap “forward” on their social media accounts, in hopes of relieving stress, a meme caught my eye.

It was a picture of the planet floating in black space with the words in bold “Planet Earth: Closed for Repairs”.

As humanity has taken over more and more of earth’s real estate, it has begun to assume that the planet belongs to it and the meme boldly assumes we are the owners. On the contrary it is the human race that needs repairing, as its trajectory has come to a stand still.

Planet earth will repair itself just fine regardless of what happens to humanity. The earth is just deciding, which virus to keep and which to cull.

While a pandemic is not an anomaly to human history, no one thought a microscopic germ, in this day and age, would bring all of humanity’s engine to a grinding halt.

Humans had gotten complacent and over confident in their faith in modern medicine. Now an economic collapse of gigantic proportions is imminent, and as we “fire-fight” our way out of this one, one thing becomes ever so clear.

As a human race the way we largely live, is unsustainable.

If we are willing to learn, the virus is here to teach us many lessons. There can be no better teachable moment than this one. This is an once in a generation opportunity that is before us.

There is gloom all around us. But as history shows us, this is when the human spirit shines the brightest. Pushing us towards great innovation and greater change.

One silver lining to this crisis, is that the earth is healing as a result of a withdrawal from frenetic human activity.

The skies are clearing, fish are returning to the canals of Venice, Dolphins are returning to the Mumbai harbor and birds can be heard in the concrete jungles of the world.

To those who still believe human activity is not altering the environment, here is an opportunity to witness it first hand.

While some talk about a planet being one big village, this is the first time in a long time, we have been reminded how true that is.

While boorish leaders talk about building walls and enforcing borders and treating immigrants and refugees as the “other”, the virus teaches us, there is no “other”. Every individual is obligated in the survival of every other.

Stopping air traffic, closing borders, quarantining people has not stalled the virus from wreaking havoc. But it is clear, if the world had worked as one organism, as one entity, sharing and caring for each other regardless of our divisions, probably things would have progressed in a less dire fashion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was established to tackle epidemics on a global scale. Its mandate is to be on a constant lookout for the next epidemic and clamp it before it explodes. But the WHO can only coordinate a global response when it is well funded by member nations, and given the power to act.

The way the current pandemic has been handled, is by every nation going at it alone. There has been a lack of a unified response, which is what was needed back in December when the first case was reported in China.

Now the pandemic is full blown in Europe and in America, and chances of it getting out of hand in other nations is very real.

While some nations like Singapore and South Korea have been able to manage it better, it is only because they were prepared. While other nations were watching the wave approach from afar and waiting for it to crash to then act.

The virus is unrelenting and unsparing. It does not discriminate and also exposes the frailty of the human race.

The panic buying and hoarding of commodities like toilet paper and bottled water exposes how ill-prepared and misinformed we are as a people in times of crisis. It also shows how humans, especially the urban ones, have become accustomed to a plethora of things that are not needed to exist. The loss of some basic comforts is perceived as the end of days by many.

As soon as the virus began to spread the immediate response of some wealthy people was to escape if they could, leaving the rest behind.

Many from Manhattan scurried to the Hamptons, hoping to ride it out in luxury, breathing fresh air from the Atlantic.

As we have found out, rich, poor, celebrity, powerful, healthy, old, young, fat, thin, black, brown, white, short, tall, man or woman, the virus does not discriminate. It is the great equalizer.

Whenever there is a pandemic or an impending disaster, humans begin to conjure up images of an apocalypse. Especially in America, Hollywood has imagined every kind of apocalypse, which gives fodder to the imagination in times like these.

From Zombies, Killer Robots, to Geo-storms, Godzilla, Alien Invasions, Nuclear Holocaust, to Contagion, every possible scenario that brings humanity to the brink of extinction has been imagined with horror while entertaining the masses. The source of these bizarre machinations is rooted in the Christian faith and the notion of a “second coming”.

And so social media is awash with videos of an apocalypse coming and the alarmists are imagining breadlines from the “Great Depression” or “Weimer Germany” of the 1920s.

Wall Street is crashing and that is sending people’s financial security into a tailspin. The government is having to resort to anti-capitalist and un-American ideas of “socialism” by handing out money to companies and people as the bottom falls out.

Only in America, gun sales are spiking as people think intruders might come for their toilet paper or they might have to go hunt in case meat in their refrigerators runs low.

In the midst of all this, the contagion is spreading and confining us to our homes and families, asking us to contend with our loved ones and contemplate the meaning of life.

Life as we knew it before the virus may or may not return. But one thing has been made abundantly clear. We can no longer continue to live the way we do.

If in our absence the earth heals, it is a profound sign.

We need to do more to make it mend while we are present. As in the end we are too many to be extinguished by a mere virus.

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film SALAM can now be seen on Netflix.

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