Covid-19: Planet breathes fresh air amid uncertainty

Ishwar Dev Khanal

April 13, 2020

7 MIN READ

Covid-19: Planet breathes fresh air amid uncertainty
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Coronavirus — just a four-month infant — is calamitous but has opened a new path. People have every reason to believe that this novel coronavirus is surely going to be one of the most significant happenings of this decade.

Prime Minister KP Oli’s appeal to everyone to sing the national anthem on April 13 to show solidarity in the fight against the novel coronavirus attracted a remarkable response as this pandemic and lockdown has made people realize what inter-connectedness means.

This has also made people realize that we all need to take ownership and responsibility for our actions.

In Kathmandu and elsewhere, the skies are clear as air pollution drops – meaning smog has given way to the blue skies. Perhaps, these are some positive effects on the environment.

Now, a question to ponder: How would the world, which currently grinds to a halt, look like after the war against coronavirus, or whether people will face the same crisis of climate change? I would leave it to the future, not astrologers though!

Disruptions sometimes tend to lead to major transitions. The novel coronavirus global lockdown has given people a preview into how the world will look like if humans conserve the earth and its resources.

There has, however, been a significant improvement in air quality amid the gloom and doom – it seems that the mother earth has rejuvenated. Fortunately, the climate is no longer the crisis as the coronavirus has consumed everybody’s attention.

In Kathmandu and elsewhere, the skies are clear as air pollution drops – meaning smog has given way to the blue skies. Perhaps, these are some positive effects on the environment.

Notably, one major impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been a significant decrease in air pollution in several parts of the world, including in Nepal.

To reiterate, while people are cooped inside, the world outside continues to rumble on. The wildlife, rivers, oceans, and air have shown indications of benefiting from people’s engagement or absence.

Unfortunately, the waters in Bagmati and other rivers in the capital city are not clear enough to see the sands and pebbles. Sorry, no fish!

To ponder: Where are those sounds of airplanes in the skies of Kathmandu? Answer: The airplanes are effectively ‘grounded’. And the honks and smoke coming from vehicles? Nowhere to be heard or seen! First time in our generation as Kathmanduites have been amazed by the clear skies and smoke or dust-free capital city.

People’s lives around the world have largely been put on pause. The majority of the world’s population has cooped up indoors as governments, including in Nepal, have endeavored to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

To reiterate, while people are cooped inside, the world outside continues to rumble on. The wildlife, rivers, oceans, and air have shown indications of benefiting from people’s engagement or absence.

More precisely, around a fourth of humanity goes into lockdown, its impact on the environment has been visible. But will this continue to sustain? Will humanity get something good out of the COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps not!

For now, these are the gifts that we have received from the lockdown — hardly something that we would wish for again. Will people do more to it after the normalization of the situation? Perhaps not!

Not to forget that the entire world is fighting a war against coronavirus as it has created a life-to-death crisis. Life surely has changed now beyond all recognition as people are staying at home or working from home, flights canceled, countries ‘locked-down’, stores shuttered, and the list goes on!

The novel coronavirus has disrupted the global trade as frantic rush hours, relentless production, transportation, industries have halted – almost to a standstill.

For instance, even New York has witnessed a drop in air pollutants such as carbon-dioxide while methane emissions have dropped significantly.

To cite the findings of research by Columbia University, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by around 50 percent and 10 percent, respectively even in New York. Reason: Cleaner air has perhaps been the single greatest positive impact of the lockdowns on the environment.

Additionally, in China — where the novel coronavirus pandemic broke out – the carbon emissions dropped by 25 percent in a month as people were ordered to remain indoors and factories shut down.

A similar story is playing out as satellite images have shown nitrogen dioxide emissions in Europe, mainly Italy, Spain, and the UK, fading away.

Now imagine the existence of humans. In reality, humans have been a speck of dust in the universe, meaning we can easily be destroyed or wiped out in a jiffy if things go wrong or if we became irresponsible to our actions.

Did we learn to appreciate nature? Did we also learn that we need to let the planet breathe as we do? Perhaps, barring a few, the novel coronavirus must be an eye-opener to many as this has shown the people as to how nature can bounce back. If not taken seriously, people may have to get back to square one again.

Finally, a question out of curiosity: Will the world remain the same or is it going to be just a little better after this pandemic?

Not sure because I doubt if people will redefine the nature of their ambitions and goals that are important in shaping the future of society and the planet as a whole.

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