IS COVID-19 A BOON TO NATURE? – A CASE STUDY
Author: Preeti Abraham Co-Author: Dr. P.B. Beulahbel Bency
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely and catastrophically exposed the extent to which the health and well-being of every family around the world depends on the health and well-being of nature. These 100 days have changed the way we think about change. Ultimately, whether this pandemic is good or bad for the environment depends not on the virus, but on humanity. If there is no political pressure on governments, the world will go back to unsustainable business as usual rather than emerge with a healthier sense of what is normal. During this period, global air traffic dropped by 60%. Taken together, these emissions reductions have led to a temporary dip in CO2 emissions from their pre-crisis levels, encouraging some to hope that our global society may indeed be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the long term to mitigate impending climate change. So long as the coronavirus crisis keeps economic activities reduced, emissions will remain relatively low. As a result, air quality levels in the world’s major cities improved dramatically in March and April. Air quality improved largely because of a reduction in factory and road traffic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NO2) and related ozone (O3) formation, and particulate matter (PM). Air traffic and road traffic has reduced to 70% compared to last year the same time. Governments around the world have asked people to practice social distancing (or mandated nationwide lockdown measures) to slow its spread. Nature is in crisis, threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Failure to act is failing humanity. Addressing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and protecting ourselves against future global threats requires sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, With humans around the world trapped indoors in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, satellites orbiting the earth have documented a discernible drop in air pollution. With fewer cars on the road and factories open, humankind is finally giving the planet a much-needed breather from CO2 emissions. The “wild” must be kept “wild.” It is time to restore our forests, stop deforestation, invest in the management of protected areas, and propel markets for deforestation-free products. Where the legal wildlife trade chain exists, we need to do a far better job of improving hygiene conditions. And of course, there is the urgent need to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the fourth most common crime committed worldwide. Changes in temperature, humidity & seasonality directly affect the survival of microbes in the environment & evidence suggests that disease epidemics will become more frequent, as the climate continues to change. Aim of the study 1. To find out if covid-19 is a boon to nature? 2. To enable people to be aware of the harm they cause to nature. 3. Is nature bouncing back during this crisis and for how long? How corona virus is changing the planet earth? 4.What are the nature facts related to corona viruses? Method used is a case study. The case study covers important topics such as A new future, six nature facts related to corona viruses – UN environment programme, relationships between humans and nature in different societies.
The cultural adaptations of humans have allowed them to colonize nearly every ecosystem type on Earth. In addition, cultural innovations have allowed the human population to grow exponentially for millennia. Such sustained population growth is unparalleled by any other species on the planet. The population of a typical species grows until it reaches the carrying capacity of its environment, then levels off or declines. In other words, it grows until it is fully utilizing the available resources, such as food and space. At this point mechanisms such as disease and starvation keep the population from continuing to grow. However, we humans have responded to resource scarcity with cultural practices and technologies that increase the availability of resources. We raise our food on farms and live in multi-story apartment buildings, increasing the carrying capacity of the environment for humans. This growth eventually requires yet more cultural adaptations to increase resources, and the alteration of the natural environment and the rate of cultural evolution is accelerated. Currently the global human population is large enough and the technologies that allow humans to manipulate the environment are potent enough that human-caused alterations to the biosphere are causing the extinction of innumerable wildlife species. If present trends continue, there will be an eventual crash in the human population that will bring great suffering and cause widespread environmental damage. This is the root cause of the modern environmental crisis.
AIM OF THE STUDY
1. To find out if covid-19 is a boon to nature?
2. To enable people to be aware of the harm they cause to nature.
3. Is nature bouncing back during this crisis and for how long? How corona virus is changing the planet earth?
4. What are the nature facts related to corona viruses?
THE DEFINITION OF THE KEY TERMS
Covid-19: ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona, ’VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. It is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Nature: The phenomenon of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.
Boon: It is defined as something beneficial to a specific person, entity, or cause; a blessing or a benefit.
A case study.
NEED FOR THE STUDY
It is critical to protect the nature to reduce the destruction of eco-systems caused by a myriad of anthropogenic activities. Air and water pollution, global warming, smog, acid rain, deforestation, wildfires are just few of the environmental issues that we are facing right now. Humankind should save nature or at least be conscious of nature. Protecting nature protects humanity. We have a moral obligation to preserve nature and its features. It is a way to give to the future generations. We need to use the natural resources to fulfill our need and not our greed.
Preserving nature could prevent the hazards faced at the present time. Our natural environment is a priceless part of our heritage. Plants and soils help to purify water, forests act as natural carbon sinks and all animals have a role to play in the food chain. A healthy natural environment is vitally important for all ecosystems and it is our responsibility to protect it. There is hence a need for this study as it enables us to be aware of the damage we cause to nature. On account of the lockdown, nature is healing. We need to keep close to nature’s heart and wash our spirit clean. The nations need to understand that destroying its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land which purifies the air and gives fresh strength to mankind. The nature that we abuse in various ways in the end take their revenge and by exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future. There is a serious need to protect so many species and ecosystems. We need to strike a sustainable balance between the tourist industry and an improvement in the living standards and quality of life of the people, on the one hand, and the conservation of natural resources on the other.
A NEW FUTURE?
UN leaders, scientists and activists are pushing for an urgent public debate so that recovery can focus on green jobs and clean energy, building efficiency, natural infrastructure and a strengthening of the global commons. For the French philosopher Bruno Latour, one thing we have learned is that it is possible in a matter of weeks to slow the economy, which until now had been considered inconceivable due to the pressures of globalization.
“This is the big political battle,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and an architect of the Paris agreement. Leading scientists have jointly signed an open appeal for governments to use recovery packages to shift in a greener direction rather than going back to business as usual.
In the long run, the most important environmental impact is likely to be on public perception. The pandemic has demonstrated the deadly consequences of ignoring expert warnings, of political delay, and of sacrificing human health and natural landscapes for the economy. Of new infectious diseases, 75 percent come from animals, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Compared with the past, they pass more rapidly to humans through wildlife trafficking and deforestation and then spread across the globe through air travel and cruise-ship tourism. China – the world’s biggest market for wild animals—appears to have recognized this by banning the farming and consumption of live wildlife. There are growing calls for a global ban on “wet markets”.
SIX NATURE FACTS RELATED TO CORONA VIRUSES – UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
Did you know that around 60 per cent of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, as are 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases, in other words they come to us via animals?
Zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently are Ebola, bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and, now, the coronavirus. They are all linked to human activity.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the result of forest losses leading to closer contacts between wildlife and human settlements; the emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming; and the Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.
Scientists and specialists working at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have been pulling together the latest scientific facts about the coronavirus—what we know about the virus and what we don’t know.
While the origin of the outbreak and its transmission pathway are yet to be discovered, here are six important points worth knowing:
1. The interaction of humans or livestock with wildlife exposes them to the risk of spillover of potential pathogens. For many zoonoses, livestock serve as an epidemiological bridge between wildlife and human infections.
2. The drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are changes in the environment—usually the result of human activities, ranging from land use change to changing climate; changes in animals or human hosts; and changes in pathogens, which always evolve to exploit new hosts.
3. For example, bat-associated viruses emerged due to the loss of bat habitat from deforestation and agricultural expansion. Bats play important roles in ecosystems by being night pollinators and eating insects.
4. Ecosystem integrity underlines human health and development. Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favour hosts, vectors, and/or pathogens.
5. Ecosystem integrity can help regulate diseases by supporting a diversity of species so that it is more difficult for one pathogen to spill over, amplify or dominate.
6. It is impossible to predict where the next outbreak will come from or when it will be. Growing evidence suggests that outbreaks or epidemic diseases may become more frequent as climate continues to change.
“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people, says UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbors diseases that can jump to humans.”
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND NATURE IN DIFFERENT SOCIETIES:
The following is a brief description of the various types of human societies, grouped according to their main mode of acquiring food and resources. Each of these types of societies is generally associated with certain types of social conditions and attitudes toward wildlife and nature. This is essentially the way that ecologists understand other organisms, so Human Ecology fundamentally sees humans as another species of large social mammal living in the biosphere, while still recognizing their incredible uniqueness as cultural animals.
Key environmental indices, which have steadily deteriorated for more than half a century, have paused or improved.
1. In China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, emissions were down about 18 percent between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250 million tons, equivalent to more than half the UK’s annual output.
NASA recorded a sustained drop in the levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide after the Lunar New Year.
2.People have been posting photos and videos of animals flourishing in our new less-human, and thus less-toxic, environment. Here is an unexpected side effect of the pandemic – the water’s flowing through the canals of Venice is clear for the first time in forever. The fish are visible, the swans returned.
3. India Gate war memorial on October 17, 2019 and after air pollution level started to drop during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, April 8, 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/Adnan Abid
Our global culture needs to change if it is to create a sustainable world in the future. Many environmental campaigners are thus demanding that bailout packages for transportation companies and industrial manufacturers include provisions for large emissions reductions in their future operations. Such provisions could help prevent pollutant emission levels from rising to pre-crisis levels going forward. The pandemic has also shown that pollution lowers our resistance to disease. More exposure to traffic fumes means weaker lungs and greater risk of dying from Covid-19, according to scientists at Harvard University. As the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen, put it, nature is sending us a message that if we neglect the planet, we put our own wellbeing at risk. Protecting nature is our first, best, and most cost-effective line of defense against future pandemics.
• Carlos Juan Moreno, “A New Approach to Conservation”, Director General of the Environment Department of the Environment Canary Island Government. https://www.cbd.int/doc/ref/island/insula-canarias-en.pdf
• Carrington Damian, “Environment”,Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’,says UN environment chief, April 11 2020 https://theclimatecenter.org/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief/
• Koren Marina, “The Pandemic is Turning the Natural World Upside Down”, April 4, 2020 https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/the-pandemic-is-turning-the-natural-world-upside-down/ar-BB12clkZ
• Motherjones.com, “Nature is bouncing back during the corona virus crisis,” April 11 2020 https://www.motherjones.com/coronavirus-updates/2020/04/nature-is-bouncing-back-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-but-for-how-long/
• COVID-19 Marten.kappelle @un.org,April 8,2020. https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/un-secretary-general
• Nature Journal, “The pandemic in pictures, April 7, 2020 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01048-7
• Oroschakoff, “Politico”,’6 ways coronavirus is changing the environment’, March 12, 2020 https://www.politico.eu/article/6-ways-coronavirus-is-changing-the-environment/