CHENNAI : A meme that I came across recently, read ‘climate change should have hired the coronavirus’ publicist’. There are other memes also floating about, that relate these two seemingly related ‘armageddon-like’ scenarios. While all of us scramble to adapt to the lockdown lifestyle while staying productive and positive, at home, there are indubitably hidden benefits to the planet that may well be the outcome of this forced slow down. In other words, COVID-19 could be the wake-up call we got from Mother Earth. China is now reporting lesser new cases of the virus, fewer deaths and is releasing videos of empty hospital beds. There is much to learn from China on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has turned vibrant cities into ghost towns overnight.
Every country is now treading a fine line between managing a potentially deadly health epidemic and keeping its economy afloat. But while the business world scrambles to figure out how to keep working in this economy, some positive signals have been emerging for the sustainability community. For starters, the war on wildlife trade is finally being taken seriously. A recent announcement to fast-track a ban on the trade and consumption of wildlife in China was a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak. The gravity of the virus has shone a spotlight on wildlife trade and wet markets, world-over, raising important questions about the risks and morality of animal consumption.
With work-from-home policies being implemented in companies across sectors and geographies, the future of telecommuting will allow greater work flexibility across the globe. Though this trend has proliferated in recent years, it was largely restricted to a few sectors. The extended lockdown period is forcing many enterprises to rethink the way they work while staying productive. This could help companies review their travel policies and save on time and costs, as well as their carbon footprint goals. With reduced human interaction, nature is finally getting a chance to reset, there is news from Venice, of dolphins in the waterways.
A local visit to the beaches in Chennai has shown a marked improvement in the amount of litter and garbage. The smaller we keep our footprints and consume conservatively, the lesser the strain on the earth, and all other species that inhabit it. Perhaps the most important lesson now is one of human empathy. There are certainly those among us who place blame on the fact that China’s problem is now being battled by the world. Amid the racist hate crimes and increased xenophobia fuelled by fear and hostility, there is still hope for us.
We have against this virus the power of information such as when the Chinese researchers identified the genetic sequencing of the virus, they shared the information immediately. This allowed scientists and researchers around the world to respond quicker. While we think that the solution may be to guard our borders and shut down for a while, true global collaboration requires governments and businesses to work together, toward one goal for our species and our planet. This could be our biggest lesson yet.