Coronavirus: Earth’s unlikely ally
(Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ, Vatican News, 30 March 2020)
The changes in human behavior due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic are yielding unintended benefits to the planet
The coronavirus pandemic is a global health concern. Almost every country has adopted some form of precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 virus. In many places, borders are closed, workplaces shut down, international air travel restricted and people have been asked to stay indoors.
The reduction in human activity is having an unintended benefit: Earth is healing herself.
Signs of regeneration
In Italy, fish have returned to the canals in Venice. Less tourism and water transport have allowed the murky waters to settle. Migratory birds, including swans have been sighted gliding through the city’s waterways.
China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, now has a significant decrease in the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air. NASA attributes this to the decline of economic and industrial activities during the coronavirus outbreak.
Hong Kong, a city that has struggles with air pollution, has seen an improvement in its air quality. Key air pollutants dropped by nearly a third from January to February this year.
The global reduction in air, land and sea travel is yielding benefits for the planet as carbon emission sees a projected decline. Air travel alone contributes more than two percent of global carbon emissions.
Lessons for the future
The quick response of many countries in the face of the coronavirus pandemic indicates how much more can be done for the planet.
Some countries are already preparing to restart their economies after the pandemic. Many see this as an opportunity to consider sustainable options.
The Church’s approach
In his 2015 Encyclical on the care of our common Home (Laudato si’), Pope Francis highlights the urgency of taking care of the earth. Lamenting the effect of human activity on the planet, he says “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”
“Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home… Truly, much can be done.”