The canals in Venice have become clearer and clearer over the last several days, due to the water no longer churning in the wash of endless boats that usually jam up the city’s water channels.
While Italians find themselves under a literal lockdown, with everything but the most essential shops shuttered as Covid-19 ravages the Mediterranean nation, its countryside is seeing an unprecedented revitalisation.
Italy is not alone. As Covid-19 continues to rattle across the globe, planes have been grounded, people are being quarantined indoors, and factories have shut and are no longer belching out pollutants into the environment.
Even as humans ebb the otherwise ceaseless flow of economic activity to try and prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the natural world around the world is breathing a sigh of relief, as it is no longer choking because of it.
Air pollution over industrial regions in China and Europe has visibly reduced, as observed by satellites in orbit, and by most people looking out of their windows.
Australia is also likely to see a drop in emissions, although it’s too early to predict by how much at the moment.
And now with the Americas and South-east Asia also inexorably rolling towards a complete lockdown, AQI levels are expected to further improve in our own backyard, as in that of our Asian and North American compatriots.
Joanna Van Gruisen is from the UK but has lived in the Indian sub-continent for over 30 years.
She is a wildlife photographer, writer and conservationist, and runs the Sarai at Toria eco-lodge in Panna, Madhya Pradesh (RARE India Community of conscious luxury hotels), with her husband, Dr Raghu Chundawat, who is a conservation biologist.
She says, “The coronavirus shutdown is allowing us to see the deleterious effects of our actions on the world by showing what happens when our “normal” life is disrupted - like the clean skies over China.
It is giving us time to reflect, to learn to live more simply and hopefully to take a new path – one with reduced consumption, and reduced carbon emissions, that lessens the strain on the planet”And, about time too.
As Van Gruisen notes, “Had we taken action in the 1970s and 80s when we began to understand the damage we were doing, the process could have felt evolutionary; by the 21st century it needed a revolution that few could face. The coronavirus pandemic has now forced that revolution upon us.”
Aly Rashid, Owner of Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in Satpura, chimes in, saying, “The current global impact that COVID-19 has on humans is monumental. But this outbreak has slowed down human activity to such an extent that it has given opportunity for wildlife and nature to flourish in areas dominated by humans. I just hope that this situation teaches us sustainability not just in the short term but also in the long term so that we can practice healthy coexistence going forward.”
Now that we have the time to actually take a minute, you might notice more chirping birds, perhaps less dust. This is a good moment to remind ourselves it’s not all bad. And that we might just have a bright (green) future.