By Shradha Bhatti

I recently read a headline on The Hindu. It read- “ALL IT TOOK WAS A MICROSCOPIC ORGANISM TO MAKE US MORE HUMAN.”

Humans are one of the greatest creations of God. With the powers of his intelligent brains, humans have been doing wonders in the fields of development and sciences. He has conquered both land and oceans, and is not far from conquering space. The human mind anticipates endless possibilities to unravel the mysteries of this world and beyond.

But, a microscopic organism, named the Coronavirus has brought the entire world to a standstill. New York: A City that Never Sleeps has become a Ghost Town. The outbreak of novel Coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation around the world. Originated in Wuhan (China), it didn’t took much time to spread to all economies of the world. Even America, which boasts of being a superpower, could not protect itself from the catastrophic effects of COVID.

In addition to loss of lives, the virus has disrupted society and demobilized the global economy. The pandemic caused the largest global recession in history, with more than one-third of global population placed in lockdown. Limiting social gathering has led to decline in industries like tourism and hospitality. Shortage of supply is going to affect many sectors due to panic buying by the customers including shortage of pharmaceuticals, food and other grocery essentials.

Global stock market fell due to increase in the number of COVID cases spreading across the globe. The lockdowns are going to have a serious impact on financial markets including stock, bonds and commodity market.
Apart from economic and financial impacts of this pandemic, far reaching effects can also be noticed in political, cultural and social aspects. Even the United States President, Donald Trump faced a lot of criticism on his response to this global pandemic. Not only this, worldwide education system is also severely affected, leading to closure of schools and universities.

This global pandemic and the resultant global lockdown is no doubt having a great psychological impact on the people. There is also a concern regarding a potential spike in suicides, as financial insecurity, stress and uncertainty have led to increased agitation among the people. A spike in number of civil and criminal cases is also anticipated as lockdown have led to a large number of people getting unemployed. Not only have this, but a large number of countries reported an increase in domestic violence attributed to the shutdown.
Thus, COVID has had a negative impact on all spheres of human life.

If we talk about nature, it seems that lockdowns have proved to be a boon for our nature, environment and wildlife.

If we take a deeper insight, it is nature that has gained from COVID. Nature, which was overburdened with the advancement of humans, has now taken a sigh of relief. While we humans are locked inside our houses, the world has seen coyotes on the streets of San Francisco, peacocks dancing in Mumbai, wild boar roaming in Barcelona, nilgai spotted in Noida, a sambar in Chandigarh and peacocks on the streets of Coimbatore, a resurgence of bees and rare wildflowers in the UK and many more. Wildlife has thus, started reclaiming human spaces. There is a report that suggests that within 30 years much of the ocean could be restored to full health.

As motorways cleared and factories closed, pollution belt shrunk over cities. Delhi’s air quality has never been so well in past several years. Many countries are experiencing temporary fall in carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide of as much as 40%, thus, greatly improving the air quality and reducing the risk of asthma, heart attacks and respiratory diseases. NASA and European State Agency pollution monitoring satellites detected significant decrease in air pollution.

The sudden drop in pollution levels across the globe has led to positive effect on ozone layer. With less vehicles on the roads and people being vigilant about their activities, the ozone layer has finally got some breathing air. A scientific appear, published in nature, claims of having a success in reversal of environmental damage. It further claims that ozone layer might heal completely in coming time.

The lockdowns are allowing us to hear more of nature. Urban lifestyles are so disconnected from the natural environment; hearing the sound of nature can be rare for city residents. Often surrounded by the sounds of working people, traffic rushing on the roads, sound from factories and construction work; all thanks to COVID lockdowns that we are able to hear the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling, chorus of chirping crickets, serenading frogs and screeching owls. Squirrels that hang on trees can now be seen lined up on footpath, and birds like bulbul and parrots have now become frequent visitors to our balconies.

There are further reports of Ganges water becoming sparkling clean and the Himalayas being visible from towns in Punjab, birds chirping in our cities, flamingos flocking Mumbai, animals coming out of hiding and roaming on streets across various towns, Venice streams running clean and many more. All these instances were impossible to witness in our usual lives.

If all it took for earth to heal was a month and a half of no human intervention, it shows the power nature possesses to make things right; and the power humans possess to make things wrong.

Yudhishtir had told Yaksha, that the biggest irony of life is that we encounter people dying every day, yet live like immortals. One of many reflections of this thought is the indiscriminate plundering of nature done by mankind, under the false notion of being invincible and superior (overlooking the human dependency on nature for survival). The medical systems of world are collapsing under this pandemic, and it is for us to realize how small and helpless we are if the cosmos decides to take over.

Thus, with less human movement, the planet has literally calmed. But, we must remember that these environmental gains could prove temporary. The situation will return to previous state once a solution is found to fight coronavirus. We thus need a systematic change in our global infrastructure.
Humankind’s craving to control nature and exploit the resources for its profit can be wiped out in a stroke by a microscopic organism. It is a time to pause and wonder where we humans lost the way, and how we can make a comeback.

We should keep in mind the fact that at the end of the day we are merely biological organisms, dependent on other organisms for survival. This is a great lesson for us to learn, that without nature there is no survival. It is high time, that we must respect nature. So, there is a need to emphasis on ‘development with nature’, and not ‘development on the cost of nature’.