Planet Earth

Some of us are looking for the silver lining at this stressful time. Given the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus, the deaths, the hard times that so many are facing, and the fear that we all feel, this is not an easy task. And some of the optimistic stories we hear aren’t true. It was disappointing to learn that the dolphins aren’t actually returning to Venice, despite the lovely video that circulated so quickly. Perhaps we are being too hopeful.

And yet there are some good things worth noting. The canal water in Venice has cleared, even though there are no dolphins. There are reports of blue skies in China and of smog lessening in Seattle. Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and founder of the Pacific Institute in Berkeley says that “As for the environmental benefits we see from the slowdown of day-to-day life and economic activity in terms of improving air quality and other slight benefits, it’s a good sign that our ecosystems are somewhat resilient if we don’t completely destroy them.”

hings could improve. It’s also possible that the economic response to Covid-19 will be not have any focus on stimulus packages that consider climate change. Airlines are asking for billions of dollars in government aid, which President Trump has endorsed, and air travel may bounce back after the pandemic subsides. The resurgence in industrial activity may outweigh short-term reduction of emissions. The climate crisis challenges will remain.

Many people are using this time to hike and cycle and enjoy the natural world. More than ever we are talking about the need to take care of our planet. I find myself thinking of P K Page’s wonderful poem, “Planet Earth” in which she says, It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet, has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness; and the hands keep on moving, smoothing the holy surfaces…It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens…like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising…” It’s worth taking a few minutes to listen to P.K. reading this remarkable poem which has been read aloud in such places as the Mount Everest Base Camp and the Antarctic Research Station.

Let’s hope that the Covid-19 epidemic will help us to see the planet differently and to understand that we are just one of the many peoples and many species who make earth their home. Maybe we will develop compassion for other people and various species. Maybe we will develop an appreciation of the trees and plants and rivers and oceans that surround us. Maybe we will see the earth differently and learn to love and care for our planet.

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