Coronavirus: An Environmental Perspective
Due to ‘self-isolation” and being mostly confined to home, I’ve decided to look at this time as an enforced ‘retreat’.
I’ve been meaning to go on a retreat to find some spiritual resilience and calm for a helluva long time but now it’s come without me needing to make any effort. So I have decided to keep a diary of this exceptional time.
Since worrying about this critical situation won’t change anything,- but will only impair my auto-immune system and so make things worse! -I am choosing to look at other aspects regarding the issue which are more positive.
In this enforced retreat a lot of pressure to ‘go and do,’ is released. We’re not supposed to be out and about mixing with people, so suddenly there is more time to stay here and be now. This can be challenging but it can also be a blessing. How can one actually love where we are here and now if we’re always just passing through and never at rest? A bit like benches in parks or pretty spots -when you sit there you connect with the place and drink it in and learn to love it. The same when we stay here and now with ourselves, families and the bit of actual land where we stand- the Earth- the earth beneath our feet, that supports us to stand, to move, to live.
There is a treatise called “On Establishing the Peace of the Land” which says in order to do this there needs to be harmony within communities and families, harmony between neighbours on your borders and harmony between the occupants and the land — the very soil-itself. Similar to how indigenous people know and love their land.
Before I start discussing the effects of coronavirus on our environment and the comparisons to our government's actions on climate change,
I would like to point out how remarkable the speed is at which nature tries to put itself back in balance.
The skies are clearing over China and the sun is peeping through.
With so many working at home, New Yorkers have never experienced such clean air. Canals in Venice are becoming limpid and fish are flowing through. Dolphins are playing in ferry ports now the ships are still. The skies are no longer crossed out with aeroplane trails and dumping of aviation fuel. With so many people working at home the streets are empty and when I open the windows I can hear the birds sing instead of traffic droning by.
The lack of children being driven to school and people commuting great distances to work has stopped pollution and noise. But wait a minute!- weren’t computers supposed to allow people to work at home to stop all this commuting? All the stress, all the fuel, all the time, all the damage to the environment??
Looking at the Department of Transport figures of travel to work for 2017 the number of UK passenger kilometres was 808billion!! The highest ever recorded. 83 per cent of these were by car, van or taxi. Yet passenger journeys on local bus services were 62 per cent less than in 1950. It is also worth mentioning that many cars only contain one passenger.
The figures for Freight for the same period were 189 billion tonne-kilometres of domestic freight moved within the U.K of which 13 per cent were moved by water, only 9 per cent moved by rail and 78 per cent moved by road!
With all that pollution, why would a government pledged to reduce emissions to meet our legal targets, decide to spend (to quote Richie Sunac ). ’27 Billion on TARMAC!!?” When we need that money NOT spent on tarmac-which increases flooding, pollution, countryside and bio-diversity laid waste but instead spent on rail and clean local transport services!
Amazingly Covid 19 has managed in a few short months to achieve all that environmentalists tried to do by sitting in the road, glueing themselves to planes and raising the alarm on Environment and Climate Change. Covid 19 has closed airports,(flying speeded up its spread) -and stopped unessential travel and shut down car manufacturing and plastic production. Although this is a huge blow to our economies poor Nature must be heaving a huge sigh of relief. In fact it could be said that nature is fighting back, or even fighting for her life!-and, of course, that means OUR life!
It is good to hear politicians say “We are listening to the science” to inform their decisions. But how is it that they don’t listen to the same science to take action on Environment and Climate Change?? One big reason!! There is a wealthy, powerful, global established OPPOSITION-the Fossil fuel companies and lobbyists, to the Environment and Climate Change body. But there is no opposition to science relating to Covid 19. That is why governments have mobilised so quickly and successfully. Plus it shows what could be done if there was a will to take action on behalf of the environment. Whilst the high salaried oil nay-sayers have managed to halt any mobilisation to stop the use of fossil fuels completely.
Bearing in mind that Covid 19 at present only threatens humans and that Environmental and Climate Change will threaten everyone and every creature, every plant form, air and water for now and forevermore, the danger being so much bigger should require at least the same measures. Not pouring money into road building and all the associated carnage!
It could also appear that the present situation offers us a mirror or a rehearsal for what the Environment and Climate Change Crisis will manifest. All the vulnerable medical, trade and supply links, the economic slide, the helplessness of the poorest –especially in the global south. It is almost as if we are being given a last chance to turn away from the evils- that lie in our own hands to dish out.
The environment is trying to heal after the cessation of our mess-making. When the crisis passes will we decide to do the same thing all over again and pollute everywhere unnecessarily?? “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
In Belgium my friend keeps having her self -isolating path crossed by mothers and fathers of small children in buggies or held by the hand. In ten years this has never happened as all small children go to kindergarten while their parents work. She said that for her to see parents and children together had presented a normal and lovely picture and made her feel reassured that life has not become totally crazy. At the same time human life appears in all its preciousness and vulnerability.
There is a well known Buddhist meditation that focuses on comtemplating bone and the fact that -sooner or later,-we are all going to end. This concentrates the mind on the fact that life is finite and short. from this arises the question of how to have no regrets when lying on ones deathbed. What would you want to have done or been?
When posed this question in the light of the present situation, a friend who is often unsure of her next move , replied immediately’Living in France, growing vegetables and keeping chickens’! The thought had never crystalised so clearly for her before as doing this exercise.
The beauty of compassionate and creative inner nature is now manifesting all around us as people share ways to be together in harmony-singing from balconies in Italy, neighbourhood applause for health workers in Spain, streamed online orchestras and choirs and groups springing up to offer support, help and comfort to those who need it.
So many people are and will suffer through this virus. There was no mention of the Care Crisis in the budget and no spending plan announced. Covid 19 will have a big impact on the numbers of people in care. I pray that I am not among the count of the dead nor anyone I know and I am sure everyone feels the same. Therefore why would we not support and safeguard our environment so that worse things don’t happen?
Let us turn this poison into medicine as the Buddhists do and make a potion of lasting power to save our world with our courage, fortitude, wisdom and compassion for each other and the planet that gives us all life. In every situation there are opportunities for good. We must find them.
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield
but to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant that I may not be a coward,
feeling Your mercy in my success alone;
But let me find the grasp of Your hand in my failure.
Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore — 191
Dinah Morgan is an artist, sculptor, and environmentalist. She is currently involved in generating awareness on climate-related topics.
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