COVID-19 Lockdown Illustrates Connection Between People, The Earth, & Pollution

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There is only one way the human race survives — we must stop burning fossil fuels. Oh, not all at once. But soon. Very soon, in fact. It needs to become the #1 priority for human civilization, to replace energy from thermal source with energy from emissions-free technologies like wind, solar, hydro, and other clean alternatives.

The economic destruction caused by the COVID-19 virus has devastated the economy of many nations, but something quite unexpected has happened as a result. A sharp drop in pollution from power plants, airplanes, and motor vehicles has cleared the air quite literally and allowed people to see things that were hidden by a pall of human-made pollution for the first time in decades.

In the Indian city of Jalandhar this week, residents were astonished to find they could see the mountains in the Dhauladhar range, which is part of the Himalayas, for the first time in decades.


If there is any good news that could flow from the economy being subjugated by a virus, it is this. People are noticing the world around them in a new way, which could lead to a new understanding of how human activities can damage the environment. Nothing could be more important in the fight to save the Earth from becoming too hot to support human life than reaffirming the connection between  ourselves and nature.

All politics is local, Tip O’Neill liked to say, and if the people will lead, their leaders will follow — eventually. Now is the time to emphasize how making our economy dependent on burning fossil fuels is slowly killing us all. Now is the time to put a price on carbon so the people of Jalandhar and their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren can see the Dhauladhar mountains everyday for centuries to come.

Call it the Green New Deal. Call it carbon mitigation, stick it in your cap and call it macaroni. Call it whatever you want, but understand this. Without it, we are doomed to perish — every last one of us — just as surely as the dinosaurs did long ago. The need is urgent and the time is short. We must get started and there is no time like the present to act. We are at an inflection point and may never have a better chance to preserve life as we know it than we do this very moment.

Hubble photo
Image credit: NASA

I am a great believer in the Singularity. It’s an all encompassing belief that something is out there that we are only dimly aware of. Star Wars fans might call it The Force. If you spend a few moments looking through the pictures sent back to us by the Hubble telescope, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of the Singularity. It is a concept too powerful for the human mind to fully grasp, but if we sit very still and listen with our heart, we can sometimes hear what it is telling us.

Meditation can help us make contact with the Singularity but it is not the only way. Sometimes it is just waking in the morning to see a distant mountain range that has been obscured for decades to experience an “Ah hah!” moment. The coronavirus could very well be the Singularity telling us one more time to stop being such arrogant jerks and start planning to preserve the only home we will ever have — a home that is far more fragile than we ever imagined.

Here’s another example. A few weeks ago, I went to Astronomy Day at a local university. In one room, I found a video called Illusions of Light playing. I was fascinated to learn that many people have never seen the Milky Way. I kept returning to that room and wondering if the Singularity was trying to tell me something. Perhaps it was telling me to share the video with you. It’s pretty powerful stuff and well worth watching.

Here’s a link to NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website which features a new photo of the heavens every day. Check it out. You may be amazed to see what’s out there and how little we actually know about life and the great beyond. As Mark Twain once observed, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you near as much as what you do know that t’aint true.” In the midst of turmoil, the truth can be revealed — if we are willing to listen.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

Steve Hanley has 5484 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley