Recently, at his neighbourhood’s nightly tribute to health professionals and essential services workers, my friend played Reveille on his bugle. Reveille! A call to arms –and also a wake-up call!
Many environmentalists are hoping that the coronavirus will turn out to be the wake-up call which encourages us to change our ways. Last week on Earth Day, ecologist Thomas Lovejoy describes the virus as a wake-up call, stating, “We have to re-chart our course”:
A number of journalists have noted that, as we have changed our behaviours to contain or avoid the virus, there have been positive effects on the environment. Cleaner air. Clearer waters. The liberation of wildlife. The air in London is cleaner. The Himalayas are visible in Northern India. Wildlife organizations report that people are seeing more birds and hearing more birdsong – although that may be partly because we have more time to pay attention to them. All such reports indicate that we can change.
We don’t need to be as excessive as we have been in our shopping, driving, and jumping on long-haul flights for too many holidays. We can stay home. We can even work from home. We can participate in classes and conferences via Zoom. We have proven that.
Clearly, we’ve experienced a bit of a mystery. We’ve learned that our behaviour can change profoundly and swiftly, in the twinkling of an eye.
It makes me think of Handel’s Messiah: The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible…And we shall be changed.
It’s worth listening to Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly’s rousing rendition of this transformation!
Jane Goodall, 86 year-old primatologist and anthropologist who also spoke on Earth Day said, “I just hope that, when this is over, we’re wiser.”
But will we be any wiser? When this virus is over, will we be changed, or will we just return to our workaholic, profit-driven, careless self-indulgences which are contributing daily to the devastation of the planet?
It’s not yet clear. A friend who until recently had traveled frequently acknowledged, “Well, after all, it was a bit excessive, wasn’t it?”
It was indeed. We’ve seen that the climate crisis is a human problem, not a planetary one. And, across the world, the lockdowns have shown us how quickly the natural world around us can adapt and thrive when we step back.
But not everyone will see things that way. Probably we will not all be changed. Yet if enough of us woke up and thought about the everyday choices we make, and if we then chose to live more responsibly and thoughtfully, we could make a real difference.