And the Land lay Fallow

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Pollution levels down in just a month. Image: laconfidential.com

There have been many unexpected outcomes from the pandemic including stories from Wuhan, China where residents notice birds have returned, or at least they can hear birds singing again. It is a time where the global lands lay fallow.

The Straits Times (Singapore) reported as early as February:

“One of the deadliest epidemics in decades has dented energy demand and industrial output in China, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by about 100 million metric tonnes – close to what Chile emits in a year.

A new analysis by the climate non-profit Carbon Brief found that the widespread impact of the virus-including travel restrictions, longer holidays, and lower economic activity-means that neither has recovered from the usual lull around the Chinese New Year…” [note image above].

Similarly the CBC reported in late March:

“Countries around the world have imposed drastic measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. China put a sizable part of its massive population on lockdown, and Italy — the hardest-hit country outside China — did the same with its approximately 60 million citizens.

While stopping the spread of the disease is obviously Job #1, scientists have discovered some environmental effects of curtailing business as usual.

Using satellite imagery, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which is overseen by the European Commission, captures daily analyses of air pollutants and has discerned changes as a result of COVID-19-related measures across the world.

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Image: CBC

The images [above] of northern Italy were taken on Jan. 31 (left) and March 15 (right) and show a significant drop in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, which is generated from things like traffic, energy generation and home heating. The CAMS said “it is possible to confirm a gradual reduction trend of about 10 per cent per week over the last four to five weeks.”

The Re-Wilding of the Land

Janet Davison reported on how “the animal kingdom” has been adapting during this pandemic:

“Animals are “strongly influenced by the human footprint,” said John Fryxell, executive director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and a professor in the college of biological science at the University of Guelph.

… animals ‘respond to humans pretty quickly,’ noting, for example, how deer and elk will change their behaviour when they know people are hunting in the area.”

Already observed are fewer deaths among studied and endangered species such as fresh water turtles, along side the more common road-kill of skunk, deer, and porcupine. As James Pagé, the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s species at risk and biodiversity specialist stated:

If you remove the number of vehicles, there’s going to be [fewer] road deaths.

As Humans Cede Territory

Similarly, Laure Fillon and Julie Pacorel reported:

“As humans retreat into their homes as more and more countries go under coronavirus lockdown, wild animals are slipping cover to explore the empty streets of some of our biggest cities.

Wild boar have descended from the hills around Barcelona while sika deer are nosing their way around the deserted metro stations of Nara, Japan.

Indian social media has gone wild about footage of a stag scampering through Dehradun, the capital of the northern state of Uttarakhand…

Gangs of wild turkeys have been strutting the streets of Oakland, Calif., while a puma turned up in the centre of the Chilean capital Santiago, which is under curfew…

While many quarantined city dwellers have noticed they are hearing birds [again], the authors note – it is may not be that there are more urban birds than before – “it may be with reduced traffic noise we can hear them better…”

Makes you wonder what else we are hearing better, seeing better, understanding better?

Skateboarding in a Global Pandemic

Things have changed. Times have changed. We are noticing something is going on – as many thing are not going on as usual.


A Very Large Pause Button

The Earth has been forced to enter a kind of forced global sabbath. I wonder how you have responded to this sabbatical? What have you stopped doing – and – what have you started doing (if resting is an action verb)?

It feels like COVID-19 smashed a very large pause button as schools, workplaces, public spaces, and borders shift unrecognizably in the span of a week. We are thankful that conversations can still flow, and that our digital world allows us to keep connected.

Cardus Monthly, March 20, 2020

If we weren’t willing to adapt before the pandemic, we all must do so now. Perhaps there has been less driving, less focus on productivity, or less focus on one’s own needs and resources. Significantly though, there has been less waste of resources, and more “wasting” time together.

Perhaps there’s been more outside time, more time with the family with whom you have been sequestered, more connection by phone or visual phone apps. Or perhaps more loneliness, more frustration, and more anger.

It might be helpful to identify where you are on “The Change Curve”:

What Now?

Perhaps it is time to ask “What Now?

When you receive, find, or otherwise devise an answer to this question, you simply take the next step. The most important thing to do is not to map out a well-planned future; it is to take the very next step: What now?

Now the lands lay fallow, and we take sabbath rest whether we intended to or not.


For more on rest see “In Pursuit of Silence” – or – “The Soul Needs Rest.”