I’m sure you’ve heard the news: dolphins and swans have returned to Venice, elephants are unwittingly reclaiming territory in China; nature is making a comeback!
As flashy as these headlines appear, and as much as we would like them to be true, they unfortunately are not. Apparently the video of dolphins wasn’t even from Venice, the swans are already regulars, and so are the elephants in China (who weren’t even drunk).
I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer about all of this, but truth is important. The article I linked above puts it quite nicely; we want to believe these things to be true — we want to believe that nature has the power to bounce back. But that hope and a few months of people limiting their commuter miles is not gonna be enough.
It is true that the water in Venice is clearer and air quality in various parts of the world is much better seemingly as a consequence of the recent pandemic. In a way I think it’s beautiful, and shows that by changing our habits, our behaviors, our routines, we can make a difference, but we need to hold on to that.
There’s a post by the nature photographer Paul Nicklen that is much more eloquent than what I’ve presented here with respect to how current protocols may be applied to a post-COVID-19 world for the good of the planet. On it, someone commented, “Yeah everyone’s talking about when things will get back to ‘normal’…more like ditch “normal” lets make some shifts while we’re at it!”
That’s the attitude we need to adopt. And in this era of COVID-19 I think and hope the world is realizing that we don’t need all the things we think we need. Simultaneously, hopefully people are appreciating their own lives and life that is all around them.
People are suffering and people are dying because of this terrible disease. But this is the situation we are in now, and the world has mobilized more or less appropriately to fight the common enemy, COVID-19 (or rather SARS-COV-2).
Why haven’t we had similar movements against climate change, poverty and homelessness, world hunger? Because they don’t affect people immediately, more specifically, they don’t affect wealthy privileged humans immediately. We care about COVID because our favorite actor now has the disease, or because sporting events and theme parks are closed. Meanwhile there is plenty of evidence of the negative effects of poverty and climate change around the world, just not so much in affluent areas.
And don’t tell me now is not the time to talk about climate change, because according to history and recent events the best time to care is when some TikTokker’s Malibu house is underwater. But by that point people in other countries may be on the brink, and in nature, reefs, rainforests, and the millions of species that depend on them may be severely endangered or extinct.
This planet we live on is truly a marvel, and the life that inhabits it is amazing and beautiful and serendipitous. We as humans are so unbelievably lucky that we may* be the only organisms in the history of the universe to consciously experience how awesome Earth is. And at the same time, is it just as heartbreaking that we are currently responsible for it’s destruction.
All that said, if the Sixth Extinction has been teaching me anything it’s that, yes life will likely go on even if we continue on our “normal” business-as-usual path, the question is what will that world look like, and whether or not we want/ care to be a part of it.
*jury is still out.