Maisha Islam Monamee
As the world is trapped behind locked doors owing to the spread of novel coronavirus, nature is healing at a slow and steady rate. With fewer cars flocking the streets, the air quality across top cities of the first world has seen breathtaking improvement, all thanks to lower carbon dioxide emissions. Dreaming of a better world after the pandemic, people would be less prone to asthma attacks and there would be fewer deaths due to heart and lung diseases. Schools would not be shut down due to poor air quality and non-smokers would not have their alveoli damaged like smokers.
In China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, emissions decreased by about 18% between early February and mid-March i.e. a cut of 250 M tonnes. Europe is expected to see a reduction of around 390 M tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the United States, where passenger vehicle traffic has fallen by nearly 40%. Even if we assume a bounceback after the lockdown, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global emissions since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Well, it is not just the empty roads that are making a difference. Industries and factories are shut down as life has come to a scary halt. This has clearly indicated an enormous reduction in air and water pollution. After years of enormous pressure, we are finally witnessing lighter, reduced carbon footprints. The pandemic has not only impacted the ground as air traffic has halved by mid-March compared with the same time last year. The aviation industry is slipping towards losses as aircrafts and pilots rest at home.
While we sit back behind locked doors, thinking of our days of freedom, the planet has tranquilled as seismologists report lower vibrations from “cultural noise” than before the pandemic. While scientists say that the pandemic would leave behind a behavioural and psychological change, it is less likely that we would be returning to our previous unhealthy ways of living and wearing masks could be a regular thing. This also implies that social gatherings would be avoided by most people. I cannot say anything about “over-social” Bangalis as of now, because we are the ones who end up marrying during the lockdown and then lose our jobs.
Coming back to my article, social-distancing would mean lower pollution levels for a prolonged period of time, enough for Earth to replenish. But human behaviour is highly unpredictable, and to avoid any risk, I would simply mention that all above statements are just assumptions keeping in mind the current situation.
There are also many posts flooding social media during this lockdown that depict how animals are returning to their habitats as we remain indoors. While this stands true in some cases, there are some eco-facist netizens who claim humans to be the actual virus. To add a cherry on the cake, some people even stated corona to be the vaccine! I would not go to the extremes and intending to keep things simple, there were many memes showing how dinosaurs are walking across the streets of London while rare animal species and even mermaids are giving guest appearances in lakes and beaches. While comparing humans to wild animals locked in urban cages might sound trivial, the ecology is trying hard to maintain a balance and this lockdown is surely helping the cause. But this also does not indicate that humans are the only threat to nature. As previous reports suggest, volcanic eruptions, floods, and earthquakes have had their devastating effects on all life forms multiple times. This is something we could call nature lashing out on itself.
I would also not deny that humans are one of the greatest threats to nature. Like come on, we are the species that does the greatest amount of pollution. There is no point in not taking accountability for our misdeeds. We have exploited nature over the years to meet our greed. Greed that is increasing at a faster rate than global warming. Close your eyes and think of the lungs of Earth burning as the Amazon caught fire. Humans took so long to react at how to save the rainforest. Fast forward to 2020, when Australia was burning and wildlife died, but we could not do much this time either.
As we survive each day and hope for a better tomorrow, let us together hope for a greener world after the pandemic. If we survive this together, let us welcome our new life with cleaner air, safer water, and richer biodiversity.
Stay Home. Stay Safe. Keep Thinking!