What I stand for, is what I stand on!

April 2, 2020

By – Arnaz Dalal
(Equitable Healthcare Access Consortium)

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

Prophetic words spoken by Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in Jan’19. In less than a year the world is in panic due to the pandemic of COVID-19, which is a humongous crisis all countries in the world are grappling with. All the powerful nations of the world are on fire, frantically trying to contain its onward march , trying their best to beat this new and unknown Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)!

With many countries under lockdown mode over the last couple of months, millions of lives have changed, industries have been forced to shut down, transportation has come to a grinding halt, the way business is done has had to be rethought. And people are grappling with the daily act of survival for the basics

But the accidental beneficiary of this unfortunate and forced lockdown is our planet – Earth. The pollution levels and carbon levels along with toxic gas emissions are at a low and in cities one can actually breathe “smog free” air and see the blue sky during the day and the stars during the night. Over 90 Indian cities, including Delhi have recorded minimal air pollution levels in the last few days.

Where the noise levels earlier, which were beyond permisible limits, were so defeaning, you can now actually hear the different birds chirping and appreciate the sounds of nature in the peace and quiet of the day. With humans locked indoors…animals are taking over roads in India. Videos have surfaced on social media of sightings of Sambar Deer in Chandigarh, Indian Bison in NOIDA, Malabar Civet in Kozikode and Dolphin sightings off Marine Drive in Bombay. The Olive Ridley turtles nesting during the day on the beaches of Orissa was observed after a gap of 7 years and this was due to absence of humans to disturb the peace of the nesting turtles

This is how Earth was meant to be. An inclusive planet for Man and all other living things. Until the greed of man took over and in our quest for the “never ending more” we have spoilt the balance in nature. That the stoppage of vehicles plying on the roads and industries being forced to shut down, has resulted in significant lowering of toxic emissions in the atmosphere, has been established beyond doubt. However, from a pragmatic perspective, such lockdown by definition has to be temporary. What then is the long-term solution to the crisis Greta Thunberg referred to in her recent WEF address? This is a pointer to governements across the world to tighten environmental laws and enforce them rigorously. This is the only way to safeguard the environment, going forward.

It is clear how human actions have a direct impact on the environment. For any change to be long term and sustainable, people need to change their behaviors and lifestyles. For this to happen, we need to go on an inside journey, introspect, meditate and listen to what the universe is trying to teach us through this Pandemic. There are lessons that should we decide to heed, will help set us on the right track. The speed with which Governments have acted to control the spread of the Coronavirus, how the people have rallied together as a community to maintain social distancing and are adhering to the lockdown rules, gives us hope that environmental issues can also be tackled with the same alacrity.

“It is the worst of times but it is the best of times because we still have a chance” – Sylvia Earle





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