Virus lockdown becomes welcome break for planet

Last Updated 26 March 2020, 15:11 IST

Though Covid-19 is proving to be deadly for us humans, it has an unintended beneficiary too — the earth. As cities see bluer skies and clearer water, most people are united in their belief that our planet is getting a much-deserved rest. Amidst all this gloom and doom, let’s look at the proverbial silver lining and see the positive consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pollution levels drop

Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions in major Chinese cities and northern Italy between January and February. As toxic gases released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities drop drastically, the air quality in cities has improved drastically. Similar patterns for carbon dioxide emissions were also observed.

The reductions in pollution also mean avoiding thousands of death due to air pollution as well as reducing the percentage of lung-related diseases.

While the effect of this in China is the most visible and sustained one till now, there is no doubt that all cities and countries in lock down will be following a similar route in the days to come.

Usage of resources comes down

From petrol and diesel for vehicles to coal used in factories, the demand for non-renewable resources has dropped down considerably as entire countries go into lockdown. Since these countries include big consumers and producers such as China and India, the drop is drastic. With the world grappling with the consequences of global warming and climate change, the development comes at the right time.

Water clears up

Nowhere is this more visible than the renowned canals of Venice, where a tourist ban has caused motorised speedboats and Gondolas to stay off the water, leading to clear water for the first time since forever. Schools of fish are now clearly visible in the water.

Animals on the streets

Netizens were overjoyed at seeing pictures of animals wandering into locked down cities, emboldened by the absence of humans. While some of the pictures turned out to be fake, such as the one showing drunken elephants taking a nap in China’s Yunnan province, it is true that creatures that live in the city’s shadows are venturing out on to the streets.

For example, in Nara in Japan, Sika deer (the Bambi-lookalikes) have been spotted wandering through city streets and subway stations, chomping on potted plants. Raccoons were spotted on a beach in Panama.

Wild turkeys and boars have made their presence felt in several areas. Monkeys were spotted fighting for food in Thailand.

There have also been reports of students in university campuses talking about how they are seeing more birds these days.

While most of them are foraging for food, the highlight is that they can do so without fear and danger.

And while animals, especially wild ones, are resourceful and will quickly adapt to changes, it will be helpful if we can put out some water and food for the strays in our locality.

People get some rest

Finally the over-worked, over-burdened working population gets some rest. While most of them are working from home, there is no denying that not having to commute through peak traffic is a blessing. Most people are getting to spend time with their families, read, sleep and eat to their heart’s content.

Humanity rises to the occasion

It’s one of those rare occasions where the whole world is a family. Countries are sending masks, medical teams and experts to one another, working together to finding a possible cure or vaccine and sharing big data and information with each other without any hesitation. Within cities, youngsters are volunteering to run errands and do shopping for the sick and the elderly, the most vulnerable groups right now. Social media is filled with praise for doctors and medical staff at hospitals as well as positive messages about how to get through these difficult times.

A moment of self-realisation

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the pandemic is the realisation that we need to make changes to our lifestyle and thought process. As some people rightly pointed out on social media, no matter how rich or powerful we are, all it takes is a micro-organism to remind us that we are all just humans.

From becoming fully aware of the impact of our actions on the planet to learning to live with limited resources - individual learnings are many. Industry leaders are grappling with supply chain disruptions (and reducing their dependency on one country or supplier) and technical changes (facilitating work from home and adopting technology in routine operations in a big way). Governments are realising the strengths and weaknesses of their medical infrastructure and social policies.

The world as such is learning to live with fear and uncertainty and still look for some bright spots of hope.

(Published 26 March 2020, 15:04 IST)

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