Environment Day: COVID-19’s Impact on Awareness and Action

This year the World Environment Day assumes a special significance. Every year a clutch of environmentalists, experts and media persons would try to bring to notice the ill impacts of environment degradation on human life. But not many cared. The threat may have been looming but it was somewhere in distant future in a far off land. “We shall cross the bridge as and when we come to it,” was the general refrain. It conveyed the general apathy of the society that thought, “as and when” will somehow magically morph into “if at all it happens”.
But COVID-19 changed all that. It has brought the humans face-to-face with their own vulnerability in trying to master nature. They have also witnessed the beauty and positive impact of clean environment on their psyche. Building on this awareness they can move towards a more sustainable lifestyle that can offer comfortable living and improved environment.
A glimpse of paradise: During the initial days reports started appearing in media that sea creatures were seen frolicking in the docks made by humans all around the world. Whether it was European towns or American coasts or busy Asian ports. Then the Indo-Gangetic plains witnessed a strange phenomenon. Snow-capped mountains started appearing on the horizon from nowhere. Jalandhar was the first one to witness Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas after almost 30 years. Then it was Bareilly’s, a Cantonment town in dusty Western Uttar Pradesh, turn to witness Himalayas in their full glory. Even people in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, breathed easy. The rivers looked clean. In Delhi Yamuna looked far cleaner than at any time in decades. Lockdown showed that not many industries or sewage plants were treating the effluents and waste properly. It was a grand hogwash.
It showed Nature doesn’t need expert advice and million of rupees of technology, meetings and reports to be cleaned. All it needs to be left to its own device to take care of herself.
Now the society in general should ask its policymakers and administrators as well as leaders what are you doing to stop effluents and waste falling into the river untreated. Public scrutiny should now be strict and intrusive to bring the leaders to the accountability table. This will be the first step towards making the glimpse of paradise an everyday reality.
Stop bio-diversity loss for your own sake: According to the Living Planet Report of 2014 brought out by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) we have lost 50 percent of all the mammal, reptile, bird and invertebrate species during last 40 years. The chief cause of biodiversity loss in IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) List showed natural habitat destruction contributed to 85 percent. It has had a consequence on our business and life. There are two unintended consequences.
The decline of biodiversity and the habitats bring the people and domesticated animals in close contact with new pathogens. It happens because most of the time natural habitats are turned into cattle ranches or agricultural land. While the bio-diversity vanishes or retreats the pathogens stay on the land and find new surfaces and make home in cattle, sheep and pigs. The new hosts and the consumers their meat – humans, have no immunity against these pathogens. It’s because these bacteria and virus were firmly tucked away in deep woods, away form the reach of humans, and evolved over millions of years to co-exist with bats and other wild animals. Another effect of habitat loss is the species that lived far away from the madding crowds and prying humans are now directly in line of their curiosity fuelled voracious apatite for exotic meat.
Some reports have been suggesting the spread of COVID-19 started with Wuhan’s wet meat market. Here exotic species like bats are for sale and considered delicacies. But the global pandemic has rattled the human society and chances are they will reconsider their mindless expansion into natural habitats and control if not curb their lust of exotic meat.
Nature shows who’s the boss: Back to back attack by nature has drilled some sense in people. It started with COVID-19, followed by a series of earthquakes in the National Capital Region of Delhi (14 tremors in 60 days), cyclone Amphan and Nisarga and locust attack. While the society reels under the impact of the natural crisis, it becomes clear that you can’t tame nature and if she’s in a bad mood you better run for cover.
So the events that have unfolded in the first five months of the year 2020 can go down in history as a time when the humans finally woke up form their smug slumber and took action to put their house in order. Or it may end up being the last wake up call that went unheeded and nature turned from nurturer to nasty.

About indiadynamic

mediaperson worked for TWI, TVI, Dainik Bhaskar, UTV and Hindustan Times in all the divisions print, TV, radio and internet
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