Vicky Zhuang Yi-Yin is the Director at Olomopolo Media and Drama Teacher at the Lahore Grammer School.
“The skies seem to be bluer and brighter. Rivers are clearer, and the temperature has dropped by a few degrees. All it took was a microscopic incorporeal virus that thrives on human interaction to play its part.”
Coronavirus is one of the most common terms used in our vocabularies these days. It is not just trending on social media but also in everyday conversations. The novel coronavirus began as a mild virus infecting people in China in December 2019, yet it has now taken the whole world hostage. Many governments imposed strict lockdowns and curfews in order to curb the spread of the virus, but despite all efforts, the numbers keep going up, and as of writing this, we now have more than 10 million confirmed cases worldwide.
Scientists confirm that the virus is probably zoonotic, which means that it developed from an animal and at some point spread to humans in China, and we all know what happened after that. There is evidence that it evolved through the recombination of coronaviruses from pangolins as there is evidence of frequent recombination of pangolin and bat coronaviruses, which allowed it to evolve for transmissions across different species. Recently, eight tigers and lions in the Bronx Zoo tested positive and contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper. However, this article is not about the spread of the virus. But in fact, about how it has been able to do something peculiar: become nature’s self-care routine. It has humbled human beings by teaching us a lesson.
A lesson that our reckless and apathetic behaviour towards the environment and nature has resulted in the outbreak of such a pandemic. This is a wakeup call for us to introspect and contemplate our actions and responsibility. Humans have been doing unspeakable harm to the environment and the natural world. We have cut down trees, dumped mountains of plastics in landfills, heaped waste into the seas, burnt a hole in the ozone layer; the list of crimes committed goes on and on. And in many cases, despite all conservation efforts, scientists claim the damage is irreversible.
"Basically, our existence has proven to be toxic for mother nature."
However, what we have seen over the past few months is nature reclaiming its hold on the planet. Animals have returned, there have been sightings of whales in North America, tiger sightings in the Sunderbans, India, civets have been seen strolling in markets and lions sleeping on the roads. There is a ban on the trade of exotic animals. But it is not just animals gaining from this temporary reprieve. The skies seem to be bluer and brighter. Rivers are clearer, and the temperature has dropped by a few degrees. All it took was a microscopic and incorporeal virus that thrives on human interaction to play its part.
"Mother nature has taken this as a moment of “me-time”, as some self-care is in order"
Mother nature has taken this as a moment of “me-time”, as some self-care is in order. Carbon dioxide emissions have almost halved within the span of a few months. This is mainly due to the reduction of travel, which has also created a massive decline in the demand for fossil fuels. The air became cleaner for the first time as the Air Quality Index in Pakistan stayed well below the100s in March 2020. Monkeys might be monkeying around, but the challenge for humans is when we return to the new normal when we have figured out how to definitively fight off this virus, will we go back to the same destructive ways or will we truly usher in a time where we are more environmentally aware of our actions? Only time will tell.