Dr Inamul Bashir
Modern life has been put on pause but natural life continues to rumble on, even showing signs of benefiting from the absence of human activity. Environmental changes brought about by the coronavirus were first visible from space. Then, as the disease and the lockdown spread, they could be sensed in the sky above our heads, the air in our lungs, and even the ground beneath our feet. Cleaner air has perhaps been the single greatest positive effect of the lockdown. Pollution levels have plummeted as people spend less time in vehicles, offices and factories, and more at home. Reductions in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide due to reduced industrial activity and car journeys have also reduced the risks of asthma, heart attacks, and lung diseases. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is healing itself.
While skies are clearer, so are rivers. No industrial pollutant and waste flowing into the water has shown immediate effect. There is less of the toxic foam caused due to a mix of sewage, detergents and chemicals. In many places, the water is now so clean that fish are visible from above the surface. Wildlife, too, has made use of the opportunity to venture out and explore. With less human movement, the planet has literally calmed.
UN leaders, scientists and activists are pushing for an urgent public debate so that recovery can focus on green jobs and clean energy, rather than going back to business as usual. The political focus has shifted from individual consumption to collective wellbeing. This pandemic must be taken as a wake-up call from nature. Our approach to how we work must change. The authorities should minimise flow of industrial effluents into water bodies. The deadly consequences of sacrificing natural landscapes for concrete jungles must be taken into consideration. The decline in pollution levels, which increases our resistance to various kinds of diseases, must be given priority. It is the time to change the way we think about change. Let’s hope that humanity emerges from this horror into a healthier, cleaner, and a peaceful world.
The writer is a lecturer in Physics at BHSS Tral. [email protected]