By SKYE RAISER 4/20/2020
To be clear, this is entitled “blessings of lockdown” not “blessings of coronavirus.” There is no blessing to be found in illness, pain, suffering and death, except that of recovery and clarity. But, the stay-at-home rules do offer us hidden opportunities and insights, both personally and societally. We have a break in our overly busy lives to reflect on how we are living and whether or not it is working for us. One pathology, the virus, is revealing another pathology, that of our human-made systems and way of life.
To be sure, there is irony in the fact that human encroachment into and destruction of wild ecosystems, lead to the coronavirus jumping species and killing human life across the globe. Despite this tragedy, we have seen positive impacts on the environment caused by the cessation of car, plane, boat, train travel, and by the curtailing/decline of shipping, industrial activity, electricity demand, coal burning. There has been measurable and significant decrease in carbon emissions, nitrogen dioxide and other particulate matter that causes smog, methane and other greenhouse gasses. In China during four weeks in January and February, carbon emissions deceased by 25%. It is rising again however now that industry and travel are gearing up again. Satellite imagery decisively shows the dip in city nitrogen dioxide levels, one of the causes of smog, in places like China and Italy. In recent weeks, notorious for poor air quality, Los Angeles had the cleanest air quality of any major city on Earth according to IQAir global air quality tracking. This is great news for lung health in those cities. The Himalayan Mountains can be seen in India for the first time in 3 decades. Animals all over the world are breathing freer and roaming freer, even onto village (Llandudno, Wales) and city streets, without the stress and disturbance of human activity pushing them back them. Many of us are noticing bird songs now as the cacophony of human activity has subsided under lockdown. Nature is breathing again. It is a blessing that the planet is getting a brief moment to recover. Sadly, we know that, especially with the rigorous stimulus programs put in place by many countries, carbon and pollution output will return to, if not exceed, pre-virus levels. To put numbers to this: Carbon Brief estimates that this year carbon emissions worldwide will fall by about 5.5%, but we need to cut them by 7.5% per year for the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5C degrees above preindustrial levels.
We have undeniably witnessed what is possible— IF we humans have the political and personal will. If we could get out of our own way. If we could pause and rethink what we want and what our priorities are. Rethink our systems and patterns of consumption, and what we value as a society. Money, power, profit, accumulation drive us, and the superficial dominates. These are our societal pathologies. Our economic and political structures result in untenable inequity, poverty, injustice, sickness, addiction and violence, and we blame the victims. This moment gives us an opportunity to rethink our linear, consumptive, exhaustive systems and shift them into circular, regenerative, life-enhancing and life-supporting systems. Because if we don’t, the planet will not support our lives much longer. We are literally using up our planet! We are extincting ourselves, and our children. We must now renew, restore, regenerate, not just reduce, re-use, recycle.
From the macrocosm to the microcosm. Individually and personally, we are exhausting ourselves, creating pathologies and illness in our bodies and psyches, from autoimmune diseases where we reject ourselves, to levels of depression and addiction that are unprecedented. Our days are filled with stress, endless actions and tasks to be done, meaningless distractions on social media (in addition to meaningful ones on social media!). We drink, pop pills and binge-watch TV. We don’t gift ourselves time to breatheand regenerate. Hence the blessing of the lockdown on each of us personally. If we focus less on the stress and fear that so many mediaoutlets emphasize and just rest, just BE, we would all be able to heal a bit and come back towards sanity and balance, like the planet. When we take time, ironically offered by this lockdown, for some self-reflection, breathing, and meditation, we heal ourselves, and our relationships not only to one another, but our relationship with nature as well. Because we humans are merely a part of the natural system, we are born from it and will return to it at death. We need nature more than it needs us, for it sustains us at all levels. We are inextricably interconnected, physically, energetically, and spiritually. When it is ill, and out of balance we are ill and out of balance, whether or not we take a moment to recognize and feel this fact. It is a blessingto have this time and space to reflect and heal/reconnect with ourselves.
Here is our opportunity, and blessing, created by the virus that resulted from our pushing nature out of balance: to rethink and redesign our systems, and create regenerative, life-supporting structures. With the death and destruction the corona virus has caused, let us emerge smarter, better, wiser, healthier, with lessons learned, wisdom gained and hard commitments, as individuals and societies, for structural and life-sustaining changes, for ourselves, our families, our diverse communities and our planet.