A Whole New World
“We are actually the virus to our Mother Earth, and coronavirus is just an antibody.”
As the pandemic has taken over both the news and the conduct of our lives, panic has certainly spread. However, people have yet to realize the gravity of another aspect of the COVID-19 lockdown. Other than alarmingly updated maps of projected coronavirus diagnoses and deaths, social platforms have also been swarmed by videos of the newly shaped environment at hand. A cleaner atmosphere. Liberated wild animals. Empty roads.
As medical and political leaders strongly advise social distancing, we are giving our environment a break from the toxic air and water pollution of our daily activities. People have started to restrain themselves from driving and taking flights to prevent the spread of the disease, as noted by the significant decline in carbon dioxide emissions (Nixdorf, Storey, & Shamo, 2020). The levels of carbon monoxide from cars reduced to nearly half as much as the previous amounts in New York. Professor Commane from Columbia University commented, "New York has had exceptionally high carbon monoxide numbers for the last year and a half. And this is the cleanest I have ever seen it. It is less than half of what we normally see in March." China and Northern Italy have also seen significant falls in nitrogen dioxide. Levels of pollutants have plummeted more than 70 percent in Delhi as unprecedented clean air returns. For the first time, numerous Indians have reported sightings of the Himalayas from their homes. (McGrath, 2020).
In light of avid research of the virus, researchers at Harvard University have discovered that pollution may play a key role in the rapid spread of coronavirus. Certain pollutant particles raise a patient’s chances of dying from the virus. The study’s lead researcher, Francesca Dominici, advises, “If you’re getting COVID [sic], and you have been breathing polluted air, it’s really putting gasoline on a fire.” The particles weaken one’s immune system by causing issues such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory issues, as well as diabetes (Gardiner, 2020).
The new sightings of wild animals roaming neighborhoods went viral. Wild boars roam Italian towns, Egyptian geese have raided airports, and Japanese sika deer strut the streets. While some believe that the absence of people has caused animals to come out of their wild habitats, others argue that the natural world has always been there.; our absence merely allowed us to finally take in the nature that was hidden by our occupied lives (Macdonald, 2020).
What about our return after the pandemic? As streets become revitalized with honking cars and busy pedestrians, we are unsure of the negative outcome yet to return. Simon Evans, editor at Carbon Brief, questions, "Is it just a cyclical blip and then we just carry on as before? Or are we actually going to… start to make the sort of structural changes that we need to get on a different track and actually start moving towards net-zero emissions?" (Nixdorf, Storey, & Shamo, 2020). As we are seeing improvement, we need to be cautious as we return to our daily lives following the lockdown. Eyes should be on our political leaders in how they deal with restimulation within society. There should be an incentive to maintain the changes we are making.
Currently, we are being confronted by the overlooked as they rise to prominence in our communities. We are taking more time to recognize and appreciate the essentiality of delivery drivers, grocers, and workers in the postal service and the health system. These are the jobs that are on the front lines, facing this crisis head-on. Similarly, we have been forced to realize the precious existence of the natural world. The newly roaming animals may be the sparking symbols of a dream for a new world. While we, as a society, may have felt helpless with the rapid issue of climate change, our frightening battle with this disease may be our hope for environmental recovery. This time for internal reflection and practice of social distancing has allowed us to realize the value of Mother Earth. A whole new world may be open to us after this pandemic. In another perspective, could the pandemic change our society for the better?
Gardiner, B. (2020, April 8). Pollution made COVID-19 worse. Now, lockdowns are clearing the air. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/pollution-made-the-pandemic-worse-but-lockdowns-clean-the-sky/
Macdonald, H. (2020, April 15). Animals are rewilding our cities. On youtube, at least. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/15/magazine/quarantine-animal-videos-coronavirus.html
McGrath, M. (2020, March 19). Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51944780
Nixdorf, K., Storey, W., & Shamo, L. (2020, April 17). The coronavirus is giving the environment a break — but experts think it's unlikely to stay that way. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-environment-impact-pollution-climate-quarantine-2020-4