March 23rd, 2020
Air pollution has reduced significantly during this Covid-19 crisis.
That is such good news.
Might it lead to global commitments to maintaining this situation? Changing away from polluting industries, frequent flying, heavy car traffic…
Someone from EasyJet actually wrote back to me last week, probably hoping he could satisfy my enquiry/suggestion with a simple response. He was so polite and personal, however, that I’ve written again – this could be an opportunity to re-think so many things…
Another positive example of humans leaving Nature alone is the current dramatic improved condition of rivers and waterways in Venice – fish, swans and even dolphins are swimming in the clear water.
BUT there’s plenty of bad news, of course – as habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the novel coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics (according to John Vidal, writing in the ‘age of extinction’ series in The Guardian).
A decade or two ago it was widely thought that tropical forests and intact natural environments teeming with exotic wildlife threatened humans by harbouring the viruses and pathogens that lead to new diseases in humans such as Ebola, HIV and dengue fever.
But a number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19.
A new discipline, planetary health, is emerging that focuses on the increasingly visible connections between the wellbeing of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems.
Thinking of different ways of looking at the world, check out Kate Raworth and ‘Doughnut Economics’ (highlighted by my friend Claire, thank you) – we are told we have to ‘respect the economy’ so many times, as if there is just one all-important ‘economy’, that of growth and more growth. But there are different economic models of course – surely, it is time to choose one which will preserve the planet, while meeting all our basic needs..?
I’m going to promote something personal now – my son (whom I quoted in my first blog, about ‘changing the world slightly’), the musician and poet Gecko, is playing a virtual gig (via Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/geckoband) on Saturday (March 28th).
The particular reason for mentioning him here is that the eponymous song of his last album, Volcano, featured a bear coming out of hibernation.
Unfortunately, the unusually warm winter has caused bears in Russia, Finland, the US and Canada to stir early from hibernation. Among other problems, this means there are likely to be an increased number of conflicts with people. Chris Servheen, a former grizzly bear recovery coordinator at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said he had heard about black bears emerging from hibernation in the Rocky Mountains as their snow dens melt and they are forced to leave their damp homes. Even some grizzly bears on higher ground are leaving their dens.. Mr Servheen said: “The problem is they can’t stay in, but there is nothing for them to eat. They are burning up energy moving around, but the plants haven’t started to grow yet… If bears come out early they will seek food around people, such as in garbage, bird feeders and crops.”
Finally, the ‘cyclist-first’ city of Utrecht is constructing the Netherlands’ first high-density, car-free residential district for more than 12,000 people, making it one of the largest of its type in the world.
It is hoped the 24-hectare site will enhance Utrecht’s reputation as a bicycling capital of Europe.
Homes, schools, health centres, shops and businesses will be built on the site, from 2022, accessible to the rest of the city by bike lanes and trams.
Only four dead-end roads of 60 metres will protrude into the car-free idyll, for those who cannot quit their addiction to the car – just one car for every three households.
Parking spaces will be available for use at a heavy cost to dissuade use. Alongside them will be 300 shared cars for residents’ use. The closest alternative parking will be 3km away!