The following interview with Johnny Armstrong offers insight into all the ways we can be mindful of the environment and ecology during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Book author of Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure and longtime biodiversity advocate and activist, Johnny has been in the healing business for decades. He was a pathologist dedicated to helping other providers diagnose and treat disease and injury. Now, he is a conservationist.
The Guardian.com reported, “Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief.” What is the chief message nature is sending us with COVID-19?
Johnny Armstrong: “That our arrogance is leading to the downfall of our species. While this arrogance exists worldwide, the US has ‘hubris on steroids.’ About 20 years ago, National Geographic did a poll where they asked populations of different countries whether or not they accepted evolutionary science. Ninety percent of the French did, as did 85% of the Brits and on down the line. When they got to America, only 40% accepted evolutionary biology as true science. We don’t control nature. It’s the other way around.”
What will happen if we don’t refocus our perspective to honor and support nature?
Johnny Armstrong: “Human lack of appreciation for our membership in the family of life, and placing nature at a lower level, relegates biodiversity to a secondary role. There is a worldwide crisis of ecosystem destruction. National Geographic reported last year that 150 to 200 species are going extinct globally on a daily basis. How will we get along? How can we continue to raise agricultural products without pollinatinginsects, soil microbes, worms so affected by pesticides in use today? Tropical rain forests, comprising only about 5% of landmass, account for fully 50% of biodiversity in the world. They’ve been massively destroyed so rapidly. There is so much to scientifically draw from. Rain forests are chemical factories, which, among other things, hold cures to major diseases, as we’ve already seen. Nature can cure or kill us and sends us clear messages along the way. Since COVID-19 blossomed and shut down normal, frenetic human activity and transportation, reports have emerged about more wildlife and clearer waters in Italy, and much clearer air in many cities and countries. These are rewards of working in harmony with Mother Nature.”
Politico.com recently reported on how the pandemic is “teaching us a valuable lesson about the perils of ignoring destructive processes…As with the coronavirus, we need to anticipate the climate crisis and act quickly and aggressively to minimize further damages before they overwhelm us.” Where is the point of no return?
Johnny Armstrong: “As with so many things in life, we can project but we can’t know with certainty—until it happens. Humans tend to push everything to the edge, and sometimes beyond, to find those answers. As COVID-19 is teaching us all too dramatically, we’re standing on the edge right now. How long we can balance before falling into the abyss is unknown. We must reverse course now if we’re to have any chance of avoiding that point of no return.”
Where do we start?
Johnny Armstrong: “Obviously, we have to counter those burying their heads in the sand about climate change and other natural events, and take decisive global action. Climate deniers are similar to Holocaust deniers. Both ignore overwhelming evidence because of self-interests and dangerous shortsightedness. One critical step is to stop destroying habitats with deforestation and replacing vital rain forests with palm oil groves and cattle ranches, and stop replacing living biodiverse North American forests with single-species pine plantations that have the biodiversity of cornfields. A website called thriveglobal.com summed up the challenge and realization very well: ‘In less than three months, COVID-19, a.k.a. Coronavirus disease, has taught us a lesson in humility before the forces of nature that we had refused to learn for more than a century.’ Now, let’s see what we do with it.”
Johnny’s first novel, Shadowshine, featuring quirky animal characters is a story of self-discovery and perseverance. It’s also a strong reminder that humankind does not have dominion over nature. All of the animal kingdom and all things in nature deserve respect and acknowledgment.
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