By this point in self-quarantine, or shelter in place, you’ve probably seen a ‘Nature is healing’ meme, video or post. All over the world people are noticing changes in the natural world (or maybe noticing things they didn’t have time to before, or couldn’t hear, or see due to traffic or pollution). It’s obvious that the pandemic, while an awful thing for millions of people across the world, is bringing some beautiful changes to our planet. Just in time for Earth Day.
Are we the virus?
There are contrasting views of this burst of life from the natural world; namely, that the improvements are small and will not make a dent in the [much needed] larger, long-term battle against climate change. Additionally, the amount of human suffering, physical, social and economic, cannot be ignored. While many argue that ‘we [humans] are the virus’ and the coronavirus pandemic is a way for the earth to regain some of her health, there are other groups that present a convincing argument: the natural world and human society are not discrete, unrelated objects.
For Earth Day, remember that we need this planet. And while the planet does not need us, I don’t think anyone is arguing for an eradication of humanity. So, let’s take these beautiful episodes of nature and look ahead.
lower levels of pollution
Noise pollution has been reduced and people are noticing the sounds of birds. Ocean noise is quieter too, and scientists have registered lower stress hormone levels in marine life; there has been a reduction in the number of particulates in the air - a harmful form of air pollution - and scientists say that fact alone could save thousands of lives.
With factories temporarily closed and production lines quiet, China experienced a 21.5% increase in “good quality air days”. The same article [previous link] shows a compelling satellite image comparing January and February of this year. The image shows the almost complete disappearance of a toxic gas cloud that normally hangs over Beijing and other industrial cities.
Some professionals and politicians worry that the economic stimulus that may follow the end of the pandemic will counteract the temporary benefits we are seeing here.
My hope is that we can take note of how quickly pollution levels fall when we slow down. We won’t be able to keep this quiet of an existence once the virus passes, but perhaps this is a lesson that it doesn’t take much to help the earth begin to heal.
re-balancing of animal life
A tweet went viral after it showed pictures of swans in the canals of venice, and crystal clear water that allegedly hasn’t been seen in 60 years. The images and news of animal life does bring a smile to my face and warms my heart.
Quarantine boredom is real and many people have sparked some laughs with their hilarious, fictitious accounts of ‘wildlife’ returning to a natural state. It seems appropriate that people are posting silly images of dinosaurs near the celebration of Earth Day.
A sobering National Geographic article brings some of these posts into perspective. Swans have always been a part of Venice canals. The elephants [below] weren't actually drunk on corn wine. But don’t be too disappointed, the water isclearer than it has been in decades due to decreased boating activity and for sure the swans are happy that they don’t have to put up with loud noises, propellers and murky water.
We have a desire to find hope during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is natural. And so is our desire to believe the natural world is still okay, despite the detrimental effects caused by humans.
There may be slightly untrue, or false statements made on social media regarding what, exactly, nature is doing while we are quarantined. But, take note of your reaction to the news. If you are hopeful and happy to hear that nature is making a comeback, think of what you can do now, and when this is over, to reduce your negative impact on the planet.
hope for healing
This article wraps it up so nicely. There are benefits to the slower pace of a pandemic-ridden human race, animals and plants are perking up, while pollution levels are going down. People are hearing birds for the first time and seeing more blue skies than perhaps they ever have. There is hope as we celebrate Earth Day this year.
This shows us that change is possible. If this is the difference we see in two months, imagine what changes are possible with longer-term commitment to reversing climate change?