In some ways COVID-19 has given us a very important gift. It has given us time – time with family, time with our thoughts, and time to look at things much bigger than ourselves.
Today was supposed to be our spring litter clean up event. We planned it for this weekend because we thought it would coincide nicely with Earth Day on April 22 and National Park Week (Apr 18-26). But, the coronavirus had other plans for us.
Even though our plog has been postponed for now, and most parks and outdoor recreation areas are temporarily closed, many people are out more than usual trying to stay active. This is a wonderful thing. So let’s use this time to reflect on our place in the natural world, and to take stock in our impact, and our surroundings.
Look around you. See that plastic coffee lid? See that cigarette butt. See that plastic bottle cap? See that candy wrapper?
Now step out further, beyond your neighborhood. We can now physically see how the reduction of vehicle traffic has had a positive impact on air quality and pollution at home and abroad. This is certainly not without cost, but the proof is there that with some real effort, we can significantly improve our air and water, in pretty short order, and thus positively effect public health.
We live in contentious times, no doubt. And whether we like it or not, our society is now global. Economics, communications and travel have made it so. We are all connected to each other and to the natural world.
We know that close proximity and mistreatment of wild animals gave rise to COVID-19, as well as other deadly viruses. Poor treatment of commercial live stock and a changing climate have contributed. Non-native diseases can now thrive in new areas around the globe. Legendary primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, has been a strong voice for rethinking our relationship with animals by eliminating wildlife trafficking, and the consumption and trade of wild animals, while also reevaluating our commercial livestock practices.
Whether it’s rising sea levels, bleaching coral, mega-storms, forest fires, new viruses, treatment of animals, air pollution, or litter on the sidewalk, Mother Nature is screaming at us. She’s giving us yet one more warning shot over the bow. But I like to think of it as a gift. One I sincerely hope we’ll accept with gratitude, and use as a catalyst for change.