BY MANJIMA MISRA
One of the goals of the campaign on the basis of which Donald Trump won the US Presidency was denial of science and the subsequent denial of climate change. Trump marketed the issue of climate change as a ploy of the Chinese government and decided to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017. From calling climate change an “expensive hoax” to saying that the WHO (World Health Organisation) data on coronavirus are “false numbers”, Donald Trump is a classic example of a leader who denies science in the face of a crisis. However, the sheer force of the COVID 19 global pandemic has brought down leaders who deny science to their knees. With staggering number of deaths in the world population, there are some leaders who continue to deny the gravity of a public health crisis, the solution of which, can be framed only through scientific temper.
The president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, has called the COVID 19 pandemic a “psychosis” and has refused to implement social distancing, even as the country crosses the mark of 3000 coronavirus cases. Churches in Belarus remained open ahead of Easter, and the Belarus President continued to support social gatherings which he called “positive” activities. According to him mere optimism will defeat Coronavirus. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has described the coronavirus scare to be a “hysteria”, has refused to impose lockdowns on churches and has boasted that his athletic prowess will keep him immune from COVID 19. Even as Brazil suffers from more than 1000 deaths as a result of coronavirus, the president denies the need for social distancing. Nicaragua’s autocratic president Daniel Ortega has called the pandemic “a sign from God” to redirect state expenditure to healthcare.
Common among these four countries (US, Brazil, Belarus, Nicaragua) is the dominant religion of the population in these countries: Orthodox Christianity. The ultraconservative followers of Christianity refuse to accept science and connive with the ruling right-wing political section to produce a narrative that is dangerous for the very existence of humankind. A self-proclaimed apostle in US, asking people to gather for the worship services has said, “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not.” This same apostle had hosted Trump at one of his events at his megachurch. This section of people who believe in religious orthodoxy form a core voter base for the nationalist right-wing governments across countries. Religious leaders across the world have opposed the lockdown on places of worship.
Denial of climate change has taken place before this global pandemic. Research by scientists were ignored both in cases of climate change and coronavirus. Until it becomes too late and the threat of natural disasters like global warming and epidemics threaten the en masse lives of the human population, the precautionary warning from scientists is not paid any attention to and is even considered illegitimate by the likes of Donald Trump.
The massive catastrophe caused by coronavirus has exposed the incompetence of national leaders who gain their support from the orthodox followers of religions and their self-defeating attitude of denying evident science backed facts.