The impact of the raging COVID-19 pandemic should not be understated, with half a million people infected, tens of thousands dying from the virus and epicentres shifting around us. It is also truly a grim economic situation we’re in right now with fears around unemployment, paying mortgages and rent, and the survival of our small businesses in particular. It feels a little bit like we’re in some sort of bad movie.
So is it truly possible to recognise any sort of positives out of this ‘unprecendented’ (and isn’t that word being thrown around) situation we’re all in?
Possibly so, especially since human beings everywhere are travelling less, manufacturing less, and buying less. Which is appearing to result in a huge positive impact on our environment with reports that:
- China’s lock down has saved more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere (~ equivalent of what Chile produces in a year);
- Significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide over China have also been detected by NASA and European Space Agency pollution monitoring satellites;
- Venice’s canals are clear for the first time in a long time due to a lack of debris from tourists and near-zero boat traffic (no sediment resuspension);
- China has announced a permanent ban on trade in and consumption of wildlife (yay for animal welfare!)
(It hasn’t escaped our notice that fake feel-good news animal stories are definitely floating around on social media – but don’t let this detract)
So look what can happens when we slow down all of a sudden. It has only been a couple of months and while it is not being suggested that we grind our economies to a halt, this pandemic does demonstrate how our natural world will respond if we do.
Some other more general positives to come out of this could include:
- Realising that national boundaries are artificial, we’re all inter-connected and we’re also all vulnerable – we need to work together for everyone’s benefit;
- Encouraging localism – getting to know our neighbours, family members we’ve ignored (yes there can be good reasons for that), rediscover our local natural areas, and support our local bakers, butchers and grocers;
- Encourage altruism (if you don’t get wet eyes after watching NHS doctors and nurse given flowers you’re a monster); and
- Remind us to look after our most vulnerable and neglected communities (mortality and serious illness are far higher among the old, the very young, and those with poor access to good health facilities).
We have also begun to learn that governments can take immediate, radical emergency measures, which go beyond purely economic concerns, to protect the well-being of all, if they really want to. The health and safety of our friends, our family, our loved ones, and our communities are also threatened by climate change (another seemingly invisible threat)- can we then draw on the lessons of the coronavirus to tackle climate change with the same sense of urgency? Humans are notoriously bad for processing and being afraid of future probabilities – so we need leaders enact policies that enable us to protect ourselves against future risk, as we have come to learn recently.
As many of us get used to life working from home (some of us with our toddlers, bored teenagers, and/or very happy dogs/cats), remember to stay connected to your friends and family and get some fresh air at least once a day while we ride out the storm together. Urbaqua’s thoughts are with everyone and the community! #inthistogether