by Athirah Azizan
At present, mankind is going through a difficult period. The Coronavirus disease, officially named COVID-19, is a global pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of more than 350,000 individuals at the time of writing. With the current rate of infection, it doesn’t look like the virus is going away anytime soon. To make things worse, in February 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that a vaccine for the virus is not expected to be available for at least another 18 months. To halt the spread of this disease, countries all over the world have gone into various lockdown modes, Malaysia included. The whole world is shutting down, affecting both daily lives and the economy. There is, however, a silver lining to the prolonged lockdown.
Cleaner air has perhaps been the greatest positive effect of the lockdown. With fewer people driving, and fewer factories operating, the amount of noxious gas released into the atmosphere has drastically dropped,giving the planet (and humans) a much-needed breather from CO2 emissions. In some places, blue skies have been greeted with amazement. Imagine if we could have these blue skies and fresh air for at least the next decade!
Wildlife Roaming Free
Apart from blue skies and better air, some cities have seen wildlife roaming its streets in place of cars and motorbikes. As soon as humans emptied the streets, animals took over. Mountain goats were sighted on the streets of Llandudno, Wales, whereas, in Turkey goats and sheep flocked Istanbul airport. Other places have also seen wildlife coming out of the wild. Otters were spotted sunbathing at Malaysia’s Taman Tasik Putrajaya during the MCO. Malaysians were surprised as many never knew there were otters in the lake! Is this nature’s way of telling us that we should better balance biodiversity or that we’ve been selfish to other species by forcibly taking away their space?
Cleaner Rivers, Clearer Views
Wild animals in cities is just one part of the story. The lockdown has seen cleaner rivers and smog-free horizons. Sungai Melaka and the famous canals of Venice are good examples. The murky waters turned clear without tourist boats and cruise ships churning up sediment. Citizens in Northern India could view the Himalayan mountain range for the first time ever from afar.
Lower Carbon Emissions
With strict travel restrictions whether by road, rail, sea, or air, there has been a noticeable decline in pollution in major cities. Malaysia’s Department of Environment (DOE) recorded that lower carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide in the air in Kuala Lumpur during the MCO.
Is the coronavirus giving nature a break? Is nature getting a respite from humans? What the lockdowns tell us is that much of the earth’s pollution and environmental damage is caused by human activity. The lockdowns also tell us that the damage can be reduced, even if it cannot be reversed, by changes in our actions. It’s a serious wake up call for everyone.
We cannot control this virus, the government, or even the people around us but we can control our actions.
Nature is reacting positively to the global lockdown. It’s time for nature to heal and that healing takes time. I believe it is our duty to give planet Earth the chance to heal.
Now don’t you think it is time for us to be more respectful towards nature?
What are your thoughts about the environment?
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