5 Things Nature Taught Us During Shut Down
Peyto Lake, Alberta – Photo by Nature Canada
It’s been three months and counting since our routines and everyday ‘normal’ lives were turned upside down due to COVID-19. As the old adage goes, ‘out of adversity comes opportunity’ and we have chosen to use this time to reflect and contemplate the lessons that nature has taught us during the shut-down to harness the opportunities that lay ahead as we navigate the new ‘normal’.
Lesson #1: Nature can rebound if we give it the chance. While we were all staying home and avoiding travel there was a resurgence of wildlife in cities and tourist hotspots around the world.
Vulnerable leatherback sea turtles reclaimed beaches in Phuket, Thailand creating the largest nesting grounds seen in over two decades without the strain of over-tourism, endangered species of bees were seen in greater numbers around the UK due the increase of pollen sources such as wildflowers from the pause on landscaping and grass-mowing in public and private spaces, and Pangolins in China are seeing new protective measures due to the ban on the sale and consumption of their meat.
To continue this momentum going forward you can educate yourself by taking a complimentary online National Geographic Exploring Conservation course on ocean conservation, illegal wildlife trade, and more.
Lesson #3: Travel is a privilege and not a right. The halt of aviation and the majority of international travel has given us all time to pause and reflect on how humans have been over-consuming this product.
COVID-19 has forced our lives to slow down and consider a slower, more thoughtful approach to travel that matches. March saw a 30% decrease in average nitrogen dioxide levels over the Northeastern U.S., according to NASA and Paris-based inter-governmental organization International Energy Agency reports that the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to plunge 8% this year.
Given that emissions from tourism add up to 8% of the global total, with flying making up the largest share of this (according to a 2018 study published in Nature Climate Change), changing our individual travel habits are a feasible and easily attainable way to reduce our carbon footprints. Travel local and travel less often.
Lesson #4: Grow your own, support local, and eat less meat. Did you start a garden during COVID? Maybe even just a window planter with some herbs? You’re already on the path of making an impact! With the shutdown of borders and access to supply chains dropping, we’ve seen the importance of buying locally really driven home. (Has anyone been able to get their hands on flour in the last 2 months?!)
It can seem like an overwhelming problem however there is one key solution located in our own backyards and neighbourhoods by strengthening local, small-scale sustainable food systems. This practice offers overlapping benefits – including jobs with good regional distribution, increased community resiliency, improved food security and reduced environmental impacts. A drastic reduction in the consumption of meat is also key to a sustainable future. A 2017 study conducted by researchers at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Sweden (LUCSUS) in partnership with Canada’s own University of British Columbia found that there are three personal choices we can make to quickly cut a lot of greenhouse gas emissions: reduce air travel, car travel, and eat less meat. The move to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat and with more fruits and vegetables will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system. That’s a win/win in our books.
Lesson #5: Protecting nature protects health. It has become clear that the human impact on the environment is increasing the risk of emerging infectious diseases in humans, over 60% of which originate from animals, mainly from wildlife.
According to the World Health Organization, plans for post-COVID-19 recovery, and specifically plans to reduce the risk of future epidemics, therefore need to go further upstream than early detection and control of disease outbreaks. Humans need to lessen our impact on the environment to reduce the risk at its source.
The loss of habitat and biodiversity through human activity creates conditions for lethal new viruses and diseases like COVID-19 to spill into human communities. And if we continue to destroy our lands, we also deplete our resources and damage our agricultural systems.
Nature holds so many answers to a lot of our every day questions, we just have to look and listen to them.