Talking About The Upside
by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley
NS: I’ve lived in London, on and off, for most of my life. I can’t remember ever seeing a spring when the grass and trees and skies looked so sharp and clear as they have done in the past couple of months. It could be my imagination or it could be the fact that planes haven’t been passing overhead every five minutes, all day, every day, as they do usually, and that the traffic has been significantly less. Lockdown and the coronavirus precautions have certainly had their downside, but as far as the environment is concerned, there must have been an upside. Air quality has improved in the space of just a few weeks without the “normal” level of pollution. Is it too much to hope that we might hang on to some of the benefit we’ve experienced?
RJR: I am hoping that we will all become a lot more mindful of our choices in the present and future. It is such a joy to see images popping up on social media of animals stepping back in as we have stepped back. I have heard about the dolphins and other water creatures swimming in the Venice canals. What other examples have you heard about?
NS: There was the herd of goats that happily walked into a Welsh village to graze… This kind of thing illustrates how quickly (in just a few weeks!) the natural world not only adapts but is also ready to move in on the “human world”. Just imagine what would happen if all the humans disappeared – it wouldn’t be that long before our towns and cities were covered in greenery and being explored by wildlife.
RJR: I have always loved those pictures of what life on the planet would look like if we were no longer here – how green it would all be! But I am sure that is not everyone’s fantasy! It would be great if we, as a species, were able to be part of “wildlife” instead of having a detrimental effect on it…
NS: It’s not only goats and greenery… Leopards and jackals have just started appearing on hiking trails in a national park in Islamabad, Pakistan! I, too, love the idea of the “rewilding” of the planet but you’re right – it’s not everyone’s idea of paradise. Will human beings ever see themselves as one small part of the natural world, rather than as creatures that are able – and willing – to exploit every natural resource for their own ends? Global emissions will fall by something between 5 per cent and 8 per cent this year – presumably largely thanks to the coronavirus and its effect on pollution-generating industries. If we could maintain that kind of decrease every year for the next decade, then we would be able to stay the right side of the tipping point for climate catastrophe. Isn’t that more important than getting back to “normal” or even a “new normal” that enables pollution to return to pre-coronavirus levels? Some good news is that in cities such as Milan and New York and even London, there are now plans to increase the areas for pedestrians and cyclists – by limiting the “freedom” of motorists. Some politicians are seeing the sense in getting a bit greener…
RJR: Yes at the moment we are being encouraged not to take public transport into London, but not everyone can cycle, or is safe cycling. This is obviously a time where a lot of decisions, or at least ‘temporary decisions’, are being made. Today it feels, more than ever, that we are living in a band-aid, unconscious world, where there is lack of transparency, confusion and an extreme lack of long-term awareness and planning. It is as if we have been shaken up a little, awakened a bit, but we are directionless and misguided. What can we personally do about this, do you think?
NS: Yes, that’s exactly how it feels… What can we do personally? For a start, not rely on politicians, I suppose. It would be nice to think that the crisis will re-energise Green politicians and give a greener tinge to the others, but I suppose we shouldn’t hold our breath on this… The way we live our lives, the way we take care of our health, the things we buy (and don’t buy) probably have a more powerful effect than our votes. The current crisis is (to varying degrees) focusing people’s thoughts on what is important in life and what is healthy (or unhealthy) for us and for the planet and its other life forms. The key seems to be some more sustainable way of living. There will be change (and we can all make small changes that contribute to that) but we may have to wait a while to see the extent of what transformation takes place. What do you think we can do as individuals?
RJR: All that you have said. Be more aware – more conscious of our thoughts, our impact, our footprint – in every which way. Open our eyes, just that bit more. Take responsibility and live consciously. Dig Deep, Reach High. That’s all!
NS: Yes! It seems that we all have to reassess the way we live – as individuals and as humanity (and ultimately those two elements are inextricably bound together).