The world is engulfed in an unprecedented crisis. I am 83 and I have never experienced such a situation in my life. Wars are initiated by humans and can be controlled or ended by humans, but coronavirus is a show of Nature’s power and is beyond human control. Modern humans believed that through science and technology we could conquer Nature. But through coronavirus, Nature is speaking to us loud and clear that this talk of conquering is sheer human arrogance.

Human desire to conquer Nature comes from the belief that humans are separate from Nature. This dualistic thinking is at the root of our problem. Humans are as much a part of Nature as any other form of life. Therefore, living in a harmonious dialogue with the Earth is the urgent imperative of our time and is the very first lesson we humans need to learn at the moment of the coronavirus crisis.

The second lesson of this crisis is that all human actions have consequences. In the past hundred years human activities have been the cause of diminishing biodiversity, increasing carbon emissions and producing greenhouse gases that are causing climate breakdown. Our oceans are polluted by plastic, our soil is poisoned with artificial chemicals, and our rainforests are disappearing at an unprecedented speed. This is anything but a dialogue with the Earth. It is an oppressive human monologue. All these negative human activities are bound to have disastrous consequences. Coronavirus may be one.

In the short term we have to accept that Nature is trying to send a strong message through this crisis. This is her monologue! But a crisis is also an opportunity. The coronavirus crisis may be a wake-up call. We need to slow down and with humility listen to the voice of the Earth. We need to face this crisis with resilience, patience, solidarity and equanimity.

Nature is kind and generous, benign and caring. In Nature everything passes. This crisis too will pass. So in the long term humanity collectively must respond to this crisis in a positive dialogue and use it as an opportunity to redesign our economy, our political systems and our way of life in a noble conversation with the Earth. We need to learn to respect the place of wilderness. We need to learn to celebrate the abundant beauty and diversity of life. We need to realise that humans are an integral part of Nature. What we do to Nature we do to ourselves. We are all totally interconnected and interrelated. Therefore, we need to be in a constant, creative and congenial conversation with the Earth.

In the evolutionary process of Nature there have been many crises. Life has evolved through struggles over a long period of geological time. Who knows? – maybe this coronavirus crisis is here to give birth to a new consciousness, a consciousness of unity of life flourishing in diversity, a consciousness in which mutuality, reciprocity, and, yes, dialogue are the foundation of the human–Earth relationship.

Satish Kumar is Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist. His most recent book Elegant Simplicity is available on the Resurgence website