Thank You Quarantine: How the Earth is Healing with Its Humans Inside.

Happy May everybody! I’m hoping everyone reading this is safe, healthy, and happy.

If I’m being completely honest, for the past week or so the effects of quarantine have gotten the best of me. I’m certain I’m not the only person feeling the extra anxiety that comes from the negativity of a global pandemic and being trapped inside, so I’m trying to have a little compassion for myself. I woke up this morning and went for a run by my apartment, and while I was out I listed all the ways that this quarantine could be seen as a  positive not only in my life, but in my community and in the rest of the world. When things fall apart, we try to find the silver lining and figure out how we can change or grow from it. With this mini series, “Thank You Quarantine” I’m hoping to shine light on all the good that is happening in a time that is

For this first edition, let’s look globally (quite literally) and explore how our wonderful mother Earth is healing with all the hustle and bustle of human life slowed down.

It’s obvious to just about everyone reading this that we are in a pandemic. (If this is news to you, welcome to reality!) What we humans have been told to do is social distancing and quarantine. Social distancing essentially looks like staying a distance of six or more feet from others when we are out at the grocery store or walking our dog, not hugging or kissing those we are not quarantined with and wearing a facemask and gloves when out in public. The quarantine part is basically not doing our usual human activities such as eating out, going to the movies, going to the beach, going to the mall etc. All non-essential businesses are closed, with some restaurants only staying open for delivery and pick up.

It’s important to understand that this quarantine has changed the lives of many people who are one out of work and rely on that to provide for themselves and their families. With all the social and economic issues people are facing worldwide because of the quarantine, an important thing to look at is how the planet is changing for the better. We humans  know how we have negatively impacted the planet, but in the face of this pandemic we are seeing the kind of positive influence we can have.

Probably one of the first pieces of good news I heard was that the canals in Venice, Italy not only are clear, but the swans are actually returning to the canals. Venice is a city that relies heavily on boat transportation by way of their canals; there are no cars. While the absence of cars definitely contributes to lowering air pollution, the heavy water traffic has left the canals polluted for years. Unfortunately, Italy got hit pretty hard by the virus, which led to a complete halt of all human activity--which means there haven’t been any boats on the canals. Thanks to that, the waterways are clear and the city has been graced with the return of white swans to the canals, as well as jellyfish!

On the topic of water clearing and wildlife returning, a lot of water traffic is also caused by cruise ships, which has undoubtedly contributed to much of the water pollution and scarce wildlife in parts of the ocean. Obviously no one is taking a cruise at the moment which means oceans are clearer than ever! Off the coast of Dubai and Fujairah there have been sightings of incredible marine animals, such as pods of at least 2,000 dolphins swimming together, large eagle rays consuming the empty space, and sharks and sea turtles able to thrive in their habitats. According to Dubai-based marine conservationist Natalie Banks, “[human] absence provides some breathing space for aquatic species.”

Back on shore, nature is reclaiming the cities which have turned into ghost towns due to the public being inside. In Wales, goats are taking the streets, roaming through the towns that have been cleared of people. In the capital of Chile, Santiago, pumas have been spotted in the streets. Ducks have been spotted wandering the usually busy streets of Paris, and wild boars have been spotted in Barcelona, Spain.

With all the incredibly rare animal sightings due to the lessened human activity, it’s also important to think about the way that the Earth’s ozone layer (which protects Earth from UV rays that cause cancer, damage crops, and melt glaciers) is changing because of the quarantine. Due to the increased use of pollutant-emitting vehicles and emissions of greenhouse gasses by factories, the Earth’s ozone layer has gotten significantly thinner. It is because of the weakened ozone layer that we have been seeing more and more effects of global warming on our planet.

According to the United Nations, human quarantine has caused a decrease in chemical emissions in the air due to the lessened use of cars, trains, and planes. Before the pandemic, we were nearing a point of no return, but with the sudden change in human habits, according to the UN, “it’s really good news...we are at a point where recovery may have started.”

My hope is that human beings start to see the way that the Earth behaves when we are not ruining it. There are a lot of people who believe that we are too far gone to change human behavior for the sake of our planet; this pandemic has taught us this is just not true. We are seeing visible differences that have come from us being inside. Many people like to blame climate change on everything except their own behavior, but it is our normal behavior that is destroying the planet, and it is our current behavior during quarantine that is healing it.

If there’s one thing we can all learn from this quarantine, is that our actions (no matter how big or small) are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. I hope this pandemic will give us a wake-up call in terms of the way that we humans relate to not only each other, but the environment. I encourage you all to think about the way quarantine has changed your perspective. Do the trees look greener than usual? Do you feel more inclined to say “hello” to your neighbors when you take your dog for a walk? Do you appreciate the company of your family and friends a bit more now than before? We should use this time to reflect on how we want to continue our lives post-quarantine for the betterment of everyone.