CoVID-19: Fighting Flight

CoVID-19: Fighting Flight Iím writing this article on a Thursday afternoon after a skype call with my teacher in my pyjamas. The coronavirus is all anyone is talking about; Itís in all the headlines and Iíve received countless memes from my isolated grandparents about the newfound value of toilet paper. The world has been flipped on its head, and through all the noise about washing your hands and social distancing, something has grabbed my attention. Since the beginning of its lockdown, Wuhanís air pollution has all but disappeared. In Italy, the nitrous oxide levels have plummeted. In all this disaster, the coronavirus has taught us a lot about the environment.
          In early March a professor in Stanford, Marshall Burke, did some calculations about the reduced pollution in China. According to Burke, even conservatively, it's very likely that the lives saved locally from the reduction in pollution exceed CoVID-19 deaths in China. The two months of pollution reduction has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. Not only are we being shown the true detrimental effects of pollution on our bodies but on our planet as well. The stark reduction in air pollution over China has taught us something immense; if we give it time, the planet can heal by itself.
          This has much broader implications than you might think. The reason pollution has gone down is because flights have been grounded, industries have closed, and people have stopped driving. Some people believe that once the pandemic lifts everyone will immediately return to their old habits, and the sudden increase in emissions could cause more damage than there wouldíve been if we had been living normally this whole time. Our current situation might be environmentally sustainable, but it is in no way economically or socially sustainable. Although these sudden clear skies are amazing, in the long run itís possible that nothing will have changed at all.
          On the other hand, we have a unique opportunity to change everything about our lives. We have learned that we can in fact unite against a common enemy and make drastic changes. This is an environmentalist's dream. For decades organisations have been trying to educate people about the common enemy that is climate change. Weíre heading for an inevitable economic crash; we might as well use this as a chance to start from scratch and help our planet.
          The implications of this issue not being addressed are overwhelming. We are headed for ecological catastrophe, it is scientific fact. Whether we make changes based off CoVID-19 or something else entirely, the information we have gathered from this impromptu experiment on humanity should not be ignored. Never have we had as many resources to collect data on our effect on the planet. One of the things that has become so apparent to us is our interdependence. This disease has taught us about our literal and figurative influence on everyone around us. Not only is it clear how many people encounter us each day, but also the marks that we leave behind with them. This lesson is directly applicable to our interactions with nature. They say the way to stop the spread of CoVID-19 is to consistently act as though you have it. We could translate this into every decision we make surrounding our environment, how am I contaminating the planet?
          In my opinion there is more to be taken from this pandemic than facts and figures. The singing Italians on balconies, the virtual St Patrick's Day parades and the heartfelt broadcast of our very own Taoiseach, shows that this virus has revealed a hidden side in humanity Ė our ability to come together. We are in a constant state of emergency when it comes to our climate, our current way of life is a virus stronger than any that we know. Letís not return to our previous ways but grab this chance to live differently, while carrying with us the messages of hope, love and unity that are being shared globally. We are living in unprecedented times, so letís make some unheard-of decisions.

…le NŪ ChonbhuŪ
Dublin Unitarian Church