Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day

As billions of Planet Earth’s human inhabitants lock themselves indoors, sheltering in place to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus that has infected more than 2.6 million people and killed 186,000 worldwide, the devastating pandemic appears to have had a beneficial side effect on the environment.

An estimated two billion people -- one-quarter of the world’s population – have placed themselves in lock-down mode. Concomitant with the ensuing shutdown of heavy industries and factories, China has seen a 50 percent decrease in nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide. Levels of nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide have also dropped sharply in the U.S. due to the near cessation of automobile traffic. Airborne concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in Bergamo, Italy are 47 percent lower than normal; levels in Rome were 26-to-35 percent lower than in 2019; and Milan saw a 50 percent improvement in air quality. With most airplanes grounded, another pollutant has been curtailed. The murky waters of Venice’s canals are now so clear a jellyfish could be filmed swimming in them. Los Angeles skies are clear now, as are those surrounding the Himalayan Mountains. Maybe damage to the Amazon Rainforest can be reversed as it enjoys a respite from mankind’s deforestation. Perhaps the drop in greenhouse gas emissions may slow global warming enough to give us a chance to reverse that, as well.

All of which started me thinking: What if the coronavirus isn’t really a virus, after all? What if COVID-19 is actually an antibody? Mankind has inflicted enormous damage on the Earth’s ecosystem in the past century. We have polluted the air, the oceans, and the land; deforested the rainforests; and even shaken the planet’s core with fracking. To the ecosystem, mankind has become a harmful invading virus. Perhaps like any other biological entity, the Earth’s ecosystem has unleashed antibodies – COVID-19 – to destroy the harmful human virus attacking it.

It makes sense: nature unleashing her antibodies to save the planet from the human pestilence that is destroying it. A world with significantly fewer humans would result in a healthier ecosystem. After all, a healthy patient is the result of antibodies defeating a virus. Maybe we’ve been looking at COVID-19 all wrong.

With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today, this would be a good time to reflect on what mankind can, and must, do to ameliorate the damage it has inflicted on the planet. Not only because we need a healthy planet to live on but also because if we continue destroying it, the planet may realize it doesn’t need us.

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