“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. We cut them down and turn them into paper that we may record our emptiness.”

—by the 'Arab Shakespeare' Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931).

Earth is breathing again, and the animals are back.

With less air traffic, less greenhouse gas emissions following the slow-down of economic activity and the reduction of noise pollution, mother nature is getting a much-needed break from humanity.

The positive impact on air pollution across Europe and China from the lockdowns is powerfully illustrated via interactive maps posted by the European Space Agency. They show “a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations” – coinciding with the strict quarantine measures in cities like Milan, Paris and Madrid.

Art

Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over France (images from European Space Agency). Nitrogen dioxide is produced from car engines, power plants and other industrial processes. The World Health Organization describes NO2 as “a toxic gas which causes significant inflammation of the airways” at concentrations above 200 micrograms per cubic meter. On another positive note, nature is returning to our cities. From wild baby boars and their mother in Bergamo, Italy, to Peacocks strutting their feathers on the streets of Mumbai, India, ducks going for a stroll in Dubai’s Jumeirah, UAE, to a whole herd of wild mountain goats grazing and taking over the Welsh town of Llandudno.

Taken and shared by @AndrewStuart

Some other stories have been making their rounds, such as how the swans have returned to the deserted murky Venetian canals and how dolphins too are splashing about in the same canals. These images went viral in the midst of all the relentless barrage of news about COVID-19 as beacon of hope that “nature is recovering!” Well, unfortunately, these were not true. In a specialreport by National Geographic Magazine, this bubble of excitement was burst. The swans in the viral posts regularly appear in the canals of Burano, a small island in the greater Venice metropolitan area, where the photos were taken. The “Venetian” dolphins were filmed at a port in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of miles away. But nonetheless, in the midst of tragedies, there has been a positive impact on Earth, and subsequently the living beings on the planet. UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen posted on her twitter account that through this crisis “nature is sending us a message.”

“We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally."

It will be interesting to see what changes will come following the crisis, and if indeed climate change and nature will finally become a priority. Until then, enjoy the quiet streets, and the clearer skies.

- Words by Rym Tina Ghazal