COVID-19: An Alarm Bell to Reinvigorate the Environment
~ Khushi Koul
COVID-19, an unprecedented crisis with catastrophic impact on both livelihoods and lives of folks across the globe, has been a major blow for the world economy and has made more than 25 million people its prey till date. However, it has evidently benefited nature, and its resources in ways no devised mechanisms ever could. Images of the pellucid waters of the Ganges were floating on social media. The endangered Dolphin was seen frisking in the uncontaminated river waters. The quality of Yamuna has ameliorated. This is suggestive of our contribution in dirtying our water bodies, by forcing effluents into them. The skies are clearer than ever, they have changed shades from grey to cobalt. Pollution levels have dropped significantly, and CO2 emissions have attained levels last seen in 2006. Release of the gas has nosedived in areas which are the major emitters. By April, they dipped by 17% from the 2019 average globally, and by 26% in India. The snow-clad peak of Mount Everest being visible from Bihar is a testimony to the aforementioned. All of this combined is a true depiction of the saying “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
As we advance back to normalcy, and unrestrained economic activity resumes, this environmental recovery may just fade away. Economic growth is vital to pull people out of poverty and bestow them with an opportunity to better position themselves. But the question here is, can we not make a transition to sustainable economic growth? Clubbing sustainable living with the UN’s sustainable development goals is the way ahead to ensure peaceful coexistence between human beings and the biodiversity. Instead of just running after numeric targets of growth, let’s also make sure we are not depriving ourselves and the generations to come, of good quality life. The pandemic has provided a window to realise our capacity as one to conserve our resources and save the planet. If we all religiously abide by the Sanskrit phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which literally translates to the world is one family, we can surely stitch up the wounds of mother earth gradually.
Recent apocalyptic incidents like the forest fires in Uttarakhand, and the early arrival of the locust swarms followed by their attack and floods, have all been attributed to climate change. Only three months of behaving courteously cannot help us avert the result of years of degradation. All of this is hinting towards the need to wage a war against climate change and is calling for a new normal. Tracing back to the post-recession times to observe the trends, there was an explosive rebound in the carbon footprint. This unfurling environmental emergency will endanger our survival. It is rightly said by Mr Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call. We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.”
During the lockdown, we all have managed to curtail our recreational desires and with that, our spending. We have cut down unnecessary travel, and life is still going on. We have found alternatives for leisure at home and discovered the true essence of life, which we had forgotten amidst our everyday hustle-bustle. This trying time has not only made us frugal but has also taught us that lesser mobility can enable the planet to regenerate.
Climate change not only contributes to diseases being transmitted from animals to humans by altering the natural habitat but melting ice is releasing long torpid bacteria and viruses like anthrax. It can be a good tiding for the wildlife if we grab this chance and contemplate on the fronts of illegal wildlife trade and consumerism. It can go a long way in bringing trafficking of wild animals to a closure.
Economists are proposing ‘Degrowth’. It refers to a form of society which aims at the well being of all and sustains the natural basis of life. It is a plausible new direction for us, where people will use fewer natural resources, organise, and live differently from the present day. There have been several attempts to prepare such a model, but, will it come to play any soon? I choose to be optimistic in this regard. We must use this crucial juncture to bring in structural reforms, and build a sturdy tomorrow by swiftly swinging towards renewable energy. According to UNEP, sturdy management of medical and chemical waste, a clear allegiance to “building back better”, generation of green jobs, and the leap to a carbon-neutral future, is the key to sustainability.
This pandemic has reiterated the importance of global solidarity in containing the spread of viruses, not just the SARS-CoV-2, but also our actions leading to ecological dwindling. “Timeless truths are always timely”, and it’s high time we absorb the cues that we are receiving. A vendetta against nature is ultimately a vendetta against ourselves. Hazardous greenhouse gases do not recognize national boundaries, just like viruses. Let us rightfully demand a resilient future for us, and the primordial earth goddess. I hope that the governments paint their recovery packages green, and we do our bit to evidently make a difference now.
CO2 emissions have nosedived as COVID-19 keeps people home
Carolyn Gramling- https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/daily-co2-emissions-coronavirus-covid19
UNEP statement on Covid-19
Executive Director Inger Andersen- https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/statement/unep-statement-covid-19
How COVID-19 Could Be Good News For Endangered Wildlife
Lucy Sheriff- https://www.discovery.com/nature/how-covid-19-could-be-good-news-for-endangered-wildlife
Cleaner rivers, less pollution: India’s Covid-19 lockdown has some positive effects
Secretary-General Says COVID-19 ‘Wake-Up Call’ Demands Recovery Built on Green Economy, Marking Earth Day 2020
Painting by the author