Global lockdown : A blessing in disguise for the environment

Bindu Thomas
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a paradoxical state of affairs whereby the human tragedy has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Mother Earth. Where a series of Environmental Protocols such as Kyoto and Paris have miserably failed, a tiny little virus is composing the triumphant saga of Nature.Himalayas are visible from the remote parts of India for the first time in decades; Kangaroos, goats and several other strange animals too move about so freely as though they have rediscovered the earth for themselves. From cleaner air to liberated wildlife, the COVID-19 lockdown across the world has its positive impact on the environment.
The busy streets of the world have now a deserted look and air is cleaner with the most extensive travel restrictions. As industries, transport networks and businesses have shut down, there was sudden drop in the emission of carbon.Along with these positive stories, the environmentally negative signals from the growing piles of possibly infected waste like tissues and used face masks should not be ignored.
Environmentalists call the present geological phase of the earth as ‘anthropocene,’ a distinct evolutionary stage in the history of the earth marked by the exploitative human activities drastically altering the environment. The final corollary of this exploitation of the nature by the anthropos – the humans, is the dangerous climate change. Earth was badly in need of healing. Ironically, healing the earth meant a sickness to humans. Yet another evolutionary paradox! Some people even consider coronavirus as the activity of the antibodies of the earth trying to get rid of the human virus, as nature’s way of bouncing back. Such views may be bit extreme. However, the virus provides a glimpse of just how quickly we could clean our air with the renewable sources of energy. A tiny virus visible only under and electron microscope is able to put the entire planet on a long-awaited maintenance. The simplest and the smallest is able to achieve something that was considered unattainable. Across the world, the lockdowns just prove how swiftly the biosphere can adapt and bloom itself if humans are prepared to take rest for a while.
Restoring ecological harmony by averting global warming warranted a change in human style of living. Change of life-style and habits is the most conservative and impractical solution to avert the dangerous climate change. Now this is where the humans are unwittingly forced into by this tiny little ‘creature’ - COVID-19. The big drop in CO2 emissions resulting from the lock-down offers us a prospective and promising trajectory to achieve the desired targets set by the Kyoto and Paris Protocol, i.e., lowering the global warming to 20C below the preindustrial stage.
We are eager to return to normalcy by lifting the lockdown. While we are craving to shed away the traumas of the lock down, one thing to carry forward to the post-corona world is the momentum of our eco-friendly ways of living. The norms of our ecological way of living and the strength of our political determination towards sustainable development will measure the standards of human ability learn from its experiences. It is the testing ground for humanity to turn the challenges into opportunities. Accordingly, COVID-19 pandemic, despite its disturbing scourges,is also a momentous opportunity for humans to look back in nostalgia into the lost lessons of our harmonious living with the rest of the creation.
Probably, this is where the tribal culture of the Northeast in general and of Manipur in particular need a revisit by the modernity. The tribal culture had always been nature-friendly facilitating the balance between humans and other creatures. In the tribal worldview, humans are considered to be a strand in a web of relations. There is no room for greed and exploitation in this culture. An analysis of the cultural dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic from an environmental point of view will confirm the several unmistakable values at stake in the tribal culture to restore and rejuvenate nature and environment. As the tribal system itself is confronting the challenges of modernisation, COVID-19 episode is a call to the said culture to reinforce its own central and perennial values.

About the author :
 Asst. Professor, Department of Chemistry
Don Bosco College, Maram, Manipur