THE DAY THE EARTH
Lockdowns and quarantines have practically emptied roads and major traffic ways in affected areas in the world. This naturally results in drastic dips in emission levels. This only goes to show that even a few days of not using carbon-emitting cars can lead to significant changes in air quality.
But aside from the actual effects, more meaningful shifts are also happening with regards to how people think of mobility. For instance, in New York City, the COVID scare caused a boom in the number of bikers in the city. In some other cities, people are preferring to use bikes due to the suspension of public transportation services. This forces people to think of ways of moving from one place to another without being dependent on motor vehicles. In short, we are seeing a paradigm shift that, although subtle, is a big step in moving towards more sustainable directions.
While we could easily get carried away with bitter-sweet narratives of the virus putting human civilization to its knees (and halting global climate change in the process), the current crisis also has some negative effects on existing achievements and future plans for the climate change agenda.
With the virus halting practically all facets of society, it is likely that the longer we are in the clutches of the disease, the more likely that we will experience an economic recession. Right now, stock markets across the world are plunging. Many are already anxious that the collapse of basic industries will lead to a crisis that we have never seen before.
All of these will surely derail current and outstanding initiatives on climate change. This is because most of these initiatives require a huge amount of resources to execute. For instance, the drive towards alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind energy requires the deployment of huge infrastructures that could sustain current energy needs. At this moment, we are still very far from attaining such capacity and are still very dependent on fossil fuels. If a recession happens, our capability to transition to alternative energy sources will be crippled.
We can’t also forget more practical consequences, such as the cancellation of flights, plans, and other forms of international correspondences which are necessary for the planning and execution of climate change initiatives. These cancellations put a stop to the momentum already set into motion by the Paris Agreement and other similar initiatives.
Speaking of practical consequences, we could also speak of significant changes in the aviation industry as a result of the pandemic. Many are already fearing that the aviation industry will collapse in the following months due to losses incurred from rebookings and cancellations. The collapse of the aviation industry can start a domino effect that may lead to a feared recession.
The lock-downs being imposed in many countries across the world are giving us time to reflect, especially regarding our relationship with nature and other forms of life. The crisis challenges our anthropocentric point of view and gives us perspective on the extent that human civilizations are embedded in nature.
For instance, while there have been false reports of wildlife reclaiming abandoned urban areas such as Venice due to the retreat of human populations, we imagine the crisis will have an effect on the animal kingdom as well. In areas where local wildlife has become dependent on tourism for sustenance, the pause in the influx of visitors will certainly have an impact on the animals. Determining whether this is good or bad for the animals is, of course, an entirely different question.
Still, this disturbance in the status quo reminds us that the emergence of the deadly pathogens that have plagued since time immemorial are partly our own doing. Indeed, activities such as mining, logging, road-building, and other gestures of “development” have further exposed humans to forms of life that we have not encountered before. These kinds of encounters may have been prevented if we only respected ecological limits.
After all, living in harmony with other living beings also means knowing when to leave them alone.
Climate change itself has also made it difficult for us to orient ourselves in a fast-changing and increasingly hostile environment.
BBC reports that the melting of polar ice caps due to global warming is releasing ancient viruses and possible maladies that may be deadly to humans. Our intrusion of natural ecological processes is only making nature a lot more unpredictable. Indeed, we can see climate change and recent natural disasters as backlash for decades of environmental neglect.
Nonetheless, it is necessary for us to remain hopeful and positive amid all the fear and anxiety. Hope and positivity, after all, are also our primary motivators in fighting climate change. It is all about making a better planet for future generations. It is also knowing our roles, however small, towards actualizing this goal. These maladies shall be overcome once we learn to collaborate not only among ourselves as humans but also with nature in its entirety.
All images copyright and courtesy of Paul Sisson.