In Los Angeles––clear blue skies—and in cities all over the world. In the oceans—silence not experienced in decades as cruise ships have been forced to a halt. "Ambient noise from ships and other maritime traffic can increase stress-hormone levels in marine creatures, which can affect their reproductive success," writes Marina Koren in an article in The Atlantic, The Pandemic Is Turning the Natural World Upside Down An American woman living Wuhan thought there were no birds there. Then then lockdown happened, and she heard birdsong. They were always there, she realized, but noise pollution had kept her from hearing them. This infographic from Vennage shows several other ways the pandemic is affecting the world around us: Corona Virus Impact on the Environment
In The Overstory by Richard Powers, the point is made again and again that we humans are not more important than the trees, the forests, the plants, the soil, the animals. They also have a right to life. And even if we think and act as if we are the pinnacle of all creation, we desperately need our fellow beings. We are rightly focused on what is happening to us humans in this global epidemic, but in the much bigger picture, something else is happening. The Earth is being renewed, albeit for a relatively short time, not only by spring, but by the absence of human impact. It amazes me how quickly Our Mother responds.
Over and over I hear and read the phrase, "When this is all over..." and all of us know what "this" is. But what will we do tomorrow when this is over? I'm thinking of when I can next see Cheyenne in the flesh. When will we be able to see family in Denmark, friends in New Zealand? But going to see them involves air or sea travel, increasing air and/or ocean pollution once again. I ask myself what changes I will make? All the information about the climate crisis has done little to change our collective behavior. In the time of Corona, it feels as though Mother Nature is giving us yet another loving but also harsh wake up call, a direction for us to heed. We've been forced to give our embattled Earth a little respite that is also to our benefit, but will we be more conscious of continuing when "this is all over?" Already there are signs, some of them violent, that people, perhaps in fear about their livelihoods, want to get back to business as usual. It's easy for me in my recliner to judge the people protesting the Stay At Home Order in Michigan. I, after all, have my regular retirement income, which, thus far, has not been touched by the pandemic. I am extremely grateful, but what about people who are terrified because of job loss? And when I think of change, it's so easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the tide that surges back to the way things were, so I ask myself, what can I do? How can I help us to think and act differently? What if we each thought of one change we could make and then did that one?
Historically pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
~ Arundhati Roy, Indian novelist and