Wildlife and Earth Day in the time of COVID-19

Wildlife Wednesday and Earth Day all rolled into one. Happy Earth Day, everyone! Believe it or not, this marks the 50th year of celebrating Earth Day on April 22. I have to admit to not having been aware of Earth Day for all of that time, but, boy, was its founder prescient 50 years ago! Climate change and its impacts were barely a whisper on anyone’s lips 50 years ago. Since then the whisper of a few has become the roar of many, but that roar has been unable to overpower the thunder of profit margins, greed, denial, and short-term thinking. Until now.

And the change hasn’t come about because of the best intentions of Earth Day, Greta Thunberg, Al Gore, Elizabeth May, or any other climate change leader, it’s come about because of a novel coronavirus. If there is one silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down virtually the entire world and brought its own devastation, it is that it has been a boon to our environment. All those major producers of CO2 emissions and other pollutants have gone silent. Cruise ships are docked. The majority of airplanes are grounded. Cars are self-isolating along with their people. Mines have slowed down their work. Some factories are shut. Oil futures are in negative territory (how does that even work?!). And, lo and behold, the air has cleared. Air quality has improved enormously in many places. In parts of the world people are seeing the night sky for the first time in a generation. If only we can learn from this. If only this could be a new beginning.

Along with an absence of pollutants in the air, there’s an absence of people in the streets and at popular tourist destinations. Everybody’s home ‘sheltering in place’ to avoid catching or spreading the virus. Our planet’s wildlife noticed this absence right away. Within a matter of days of people hunkering down, wild animals that usually stay well out of the way of those pesky bipedal animals called humans had figured out that they had the place to themselves. The rate at which the air cleared and the animals started taking over previously avoided territory should give you pause. Pause to realize that if – or when – we have warmed our planet up to such an extent that we can no longer grow food for even a fraction of our population – maybe in 40-80 years – earth’s atmosphere and the wildlife that has not become extinct by then will be ready to embrace a healthier planet without us. A different planet for sure, but a healthier one without us.

Mountain goats taking over a town in Wales

Lions in Kruger Park, South Africa, realizing that there are no more cars so they can nap wherever they like

Endangered Malabar Civit Cat roaming the deserted streets of a town in Kerala, India

Deer taking over the streets in Nara, Japan

So, in celebrating Earth Day on its 50th anniversary, in this strangest of strange times of this global crisis, let’s do all we can to ensure that when we have finally got a handle on COVID-19 we will have learned some valuable lessons about just how different our world could be. For the better.

Each and every one of us can play a role. Let’s join with climate change leaders to fight for cleaner technologies to replace fossil fuels as part of a new economy. Let’s determine the best agricultural policies, not to improve the bottom lines of industrial agriculture, but for more local, sustainable agriculture that works for all of us.  Let’s make sure there are strict anti-polluting regulations put on shipping, including cruise ships. Let’s ensure that the manufacture, use, and recycling of plastics is done in such a way that the land and oceans are kept free of plastic pollution and our bodies are kept free of microplastics. It’s a long list, but we have an opportunity to restart our economies in new ways. Let’s be bold. Do it in the name of Earth Day. For the animals. For us. For our future generations.

To close, some views from the animals’ and trees’ perspective. Thanks to Kavitha at Sunshiny SA Site for sharing these Lockdown Laughs on her blog.

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20 Responses to Wildlife and Earth Day in the time of COVID-19

  1. calmkate says:

    well said, a well thought out post reminding us that we are the offenders if we don’t stop the greed and profit mongers! Some zoos are letting the less dangerous animals wander eg penguins 🙂

    Might say I take offence at Al Gore being listed here … seems he was the total hypocrite!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Kate. I like your observation about Al Gore. I was thinking more of his original promotion of the crisis, but point taken! I wish I had more faith that we really will see some fundamental changes in national approaches when this crisis abates, but I don’t see it happening without huge changes in world leadership.

  2. It really is ironic (if that’s the correct word to use) that the world’s ecology has gotten a respite from the unending punishment it receives daily from humans. I keep wanting to check and see what the air has been like in Beijing and some of the other flagrantly bad polluted cities. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. Wuhan and a few other cities in China, Milan in Italy, which has a lot of manufacturing, and now most European, UK, US, and Canadian cities have improved air quality because so many people are working from home/staying home. Weird times.

  3. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    A little humour always helps.

  4. dfolstad58 says:

    Strong post, loved the word prescient. I liked the photos and the humor, and it made me think about how many different ways our world could be improved if we were less spread out. More green spaces, less land buried on pavement, more efficient travel systems (I love trains) and so on.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, David. If only we could find ways to be less spread out without causing massive rises in CO2 emissions. We sure haven’t gotten far with that yet, except for during this time when we’re all staying home. The mega-cities are good examples of being less spread out not working well for the environment while we’re still using (now very cheap) fossil fuels.

  5. Great post Jane, and I liked the cartoons at the end. Seriously, all the points you make are such common sense. We’ve seen hegehogs on late night walks through the deserted streets, heard owls hooting & foxes barking…and guess what? No cars on the roads, no planes in the sky, and it’s beautifully, peacefully silent. I’m sleeping better than I have for a while too. The invading goats are in a town not that far from us, by the way. This whole global shut down has to be a wake up call – many people are realising that in a strange way, our quality of life could be better without all the stuff we usually pursue and buy. Who needs new clothes? So may this Wildlife and Earth Day be one to contribute to the kinder and more environmentally inclusive new world order that we sorely need.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Joyce. We certainly agree. And you’ve expressed it so well; you should write a post on this topic. It needs all the voices it can get while there’s a teeny-weeny glimmer of hope. After all, the world is going to need a reset; there’s a chance for a reset in the right direction.

  6. Ps, those laughs… Varsha Seth captured it well. 😊

  7. Love this post Jane.
    Those lions, im so happy for them and all the other animals celebrating our absence. Let’s hope lessons are learned and people respect, appreciate and share what belongs to all. 🌻 🌍

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Kavitha. I know, as soon as I saw those photos from the Kruger park ranger I knew I had to include them in a post. It’s like they’re saying, “Finally!” Let’s hope for sustained changes. The sooner the better. Happy Earth Day. Stay safe.

  8. pendantry says:

    Happy Earth Day! 🙂

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