The year earth changed

How the lockdown opened the doors for nature to bounce back to life
The year earth changed
"Clear air, clean waters, and animals starting to flourish in ways we hadn’t seen for decades. We noticed nature’s extraordinary response." File: Habib Naqash for Greater Kashmir

BY DR. SHEIKH SAYIR AFTAB

The day WHO declared Covid-19 as pandemic, issuing a stay home, stay safe, executive order; everyone was simply asked to stay home. As our lives were put on halt remarkable things started to happen to in the natural world outside.

Clear air, clean waters, and animals starting to flourish in ways we hadn’t seen for decades. We noticed nature’s extraordinary response. From the oceans we studied the giants communicating in fresh ways with their young, and cheetahs transforming the chances of survival for their cubs as there is no interference from us.

Endangered Penguins having a record breaking breeding season. It was a unique opportunity to peer into the lives of wild and see what and how things would look like without interference.

Just hours into the lockdown many of us noticed the silence, with global traffic noise level reducing by up to 70%. There was a new sound to be heard “bird song”.

This is the daily routine of the birds to sing but their singing has been drowned out by cars and it’ was not just the noise level that reduced, but the speed at which air pollution dropped around the globe was staggering. Within days our country witnesses the best air quality for decades.

Globally the level of toxic gasses almost halves and in India, which typically suffers from worst pollution in the world, just 15 days of the lockdown a breath taking sight appears; mountains can be seen clearly as the pollution level drops to the maximum.

It was a beautiful sight, seeing mountains everyone was saying “wow”! In Jhalandhar for the first time with the clear skies they saw the Himalayas. Over 200 kilometers away, the highest mountain range on earth, hidden behind the smog for 30 years was suddenly visible. It was a vivid illustration that the moment we paused, the Earth was able to breathe again.

Whilst we adjusted to our new normal, nature’s rejuvenation continued. The river Ganges showed an 80% increase in its oxygen level and many other rivers showed cleanliness rating leaping from poor to excellent. A year in which each of us found comfort in the natural world.

A year in which the world changed in extraordinary ways. Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide fell by over 6%, the largest drop ever measured.

There have been striking changes not only above the earth’s surface but beneath too. With the vibrations from travel and industry halving, it was the quietest period underground.

But the impact of this lockdown won’t last forever. What inspiration can we take from this moment to find ways to better coexist with nature? We have to think of how we shall coexist.

The astonishing speed and variety of nature’s response has shown that even modest changes to our lives can make a vital difference to the wildlife and the environment around the globe.

This extraordinary year, the year earth changed, has not only shown us that we can help wildlife to flourish, but if we choose to do so, we can also transform the health of the planet for all; because our lives are interconnected in deep and surprising ways. If we are to thrive in future, now is the crucial moment to find ways to share our planet with all the life on Earth.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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