It Shouldn’t Take A Pandemic

Across the world, the air is clearing up. From Wuhan to Milan to Los Angeles, startling images of clean air are streaming across social…

Across the world, the air is clearing up. From Wuhan to Milan to Los Angeles, startling images of clean air are streaming across social media, with accompanying satellite images of large-scale decreases in pollution.

The world’s water is clearing up too — in Italy, China, and in the U.S. One of the biggest culprits is the stormwater runoff from roads, and with less driving, there’s less water pollution. Boat traffic has also diminished along with its water-fouling pollution and fumes.

From Colorado to Chile to Barcelona, wildlife is sauntering through empty city streets. Mountain lions, wild boar, and wild turkeys are reconsidering habitat they were pushed out of, now co-mingling in urban landscapes as if people were the temporary guests.

There’s open public dialogue questioning human population numbers, population growth, and density, with even the Governor of New York making brazen comments about the destructive density of humanity in his city and the need to reduce it.

Greenhouse gas emissions are falling as industries close down and cars stop filling our roadways and fouling our air with climate pollution.

People, too, seem to be finding new niches and discovering new landscapes — city streets are safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, trails and natural areas near cities are crowded with hikers, and moms and dads with little kids are filing up parks.

Everyone, it seems, is getting more exercise and more fresh air.

One news agency is calling it “The Great Migration”, as people flood out of urban landscapes looking for “beaches, resorts, mountains, farms” escaping human density and stretching for open space.

In my neighborhood, I saw a dad and a son playing catch with a football right in the middle of the street, a dad and son that I had never before seen outside together.

A friend is planting a “Victory Garden”, the seedlings sprouting high in her living room under lights waiting for the late spring warmth to be planted outside.

Another friend is buying even more local food, thus minimizing shipping and the human interaction with the food she eats to maximize its health and safety.

And finally, there’s dozens of news articles, online petitions, and even government actions proposing to shut down the “wet markets” in China and Southeast Asia, which appear to have spawned the virus that has captured our attention and lives. And there’s more and more talk of not capturing the wild animals and their habitat, the very genesis of those wet markets.

We are capable of so much good and causing so much less harm.

It shouldn’t take a pandemic.

But it did.


Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist in Colorado. Twitter here.