The global Coronavirus pandemic is having a big effect on people’s moods. I don’t need to explain all the negative ways it is affecting us – traditional news media can amplify all that very well enough. What is interesting to me, is how fast the world has shown that it can recover if we leave it alone and let it heal.
While manufacturing was shut down in China, the great Asian blob of air pollution almost immediately disappeared. Some areas were reporting clear skies for the first time in recent memory. To put it in context, the WHO says that worldwide, ambient air pollution contributes to 7.6% of all deaths. In 2016, this was 4.2 million people – worse than a pandemic in terms of death numbers, but it happens every year, is completely avoidable and pretty easy to resolve.
In Venice, Italy, an area hit hard by the virus, the canals run clean for the first time in maybe hundreds of years. They are devoid of the tour boats, cruise liners and other commercial vessels that usually roar up and down the waterways of the picturesque city. The restaurants and cafés are all closed, and the tourists have gone home. With the crystal clean water fish have returned, swans float peacefully in the canals and residents have been reporting sightings of dolphins inside the city!
I’m not suggesting that we stop industry and I’m certainly not suggesting that we go back to horse and buggy. I am suggesting that when we come back from the immediate effects of Coronavirus, it would be a good time to reset. We know there are cleaner and more equitable ways of doing things that can provide excellent jobs with strong prospects for future growth, like maybe a green new deal or something like that… I have hope that the citizens of the world will recognize that there is a huge opportunity awaiting us and will take action to shape the future we all need and want.
My wife and I have been working from home for the last week. We’ve been using technology to telecommute, thus saving fuel and of course the stress of driving into a major city each day. Luckily, our modest home is close to several nice hiking trails; we have the choice of a walk down a forested ravine to the Pacific Ocean, or into a protected rain forest of red cedar, Douglas fir trees, ferns and wild huckleberries. This morning we got up early and walked through the morning mist for some forest bathing and exercise. I, like many others right now, have been feeling stressed and fearful about the current global situation. There are people I love at high risk and others that don’t seem to be too worried at all. The surreal images and news from around the world and economic stresses make it all seem so difficult to comprehend.
From the moment we entered the forest, I felt my mood shift and much of the stress melt away. At this time of year, it is alive with birds and mammals; only 2 blocks from my house there is everything from native red squirrels, to deer and even coyotes. There has even been the occasional cougar sighting over the years and my father has seen and photographed bobcats not far from where we live. Go a little further yet and bears are regularly seen. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone and pose little, if any threat. I can’t say I want to get up close and personal with a bear or a cougar, but I am happy to know that our ecosystem is healthy enough to sustain them.
So, in a roundabout way, that gets me to the number one spot in the top 5 this week. In the article, Wolves Are Returning to Germany After More Than A Century, Operation Earth 5 tells us about a resurgence in the wild wolf population of Germany. After being persecuted by farmers protecting their animals during the 1800’s, there was not one wolf left in the entire country. In the 1980s and 1990s new laws were enacted to protect wild creatures and places in Germany. Changing economic and political times and the end of the cold war led to an increase in abandoned military bases and farmland which were soon exploited by wolves looking to expand their range back into historic wolf habitat.
Events have provided the right conditions for wild wolves to increase their population and range. Other creatures have benefited too; in a healthy ecosystem left to its own accord, wild plants provide food and habitat for small animals, which then provide food for larger creatures all the way up the food chain. At the top are large apex predators like wolves which are an indicator of the health of the ecosystem and good news for Germany (and the rest of Europe).
The German government has recently announced plans to convert 62 disused military bases just west of the Iron Curtain into nature reserves for eagles, woodpeckers, bats, and beetles.
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: “We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes.
It is exciting to see the expansion of this population, especially when you understand all the other factors that had to align to make it so.
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