Where I live, I do not think it was just my imagination or wishful thinking that the air looked and smelled cleaner with barely any traffic on the road.
If you read just the part of The Air We Breathe excerpted in the MythBlast email from JCF yesterday and didn’t click through to the rest of the article, you may have missed this part:
But there is another unanticipated consequence to this pandemic: the economies of China, India, Europe, the United States and, indeed, the whole industrial world, have been offline for months. Factories, automobiles, jet planes, cruise ships and more have taken a break from spewing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere––and the whole world has noticed. Skies have cleared, long murky waters now sparkle, and, whether they want to or not, every nation has been meeting its carbon reduction targets. By the beginning of April, Los Angeles, legendary for its pollution, ranked number two on the World Air Quality Index, enjoying its longest stretch of clean air in a quarter of a century. And residents of Jalandhar, in India, have discovered the snow-capped Himalayas, over 200 kilometers away, visible for the first time in decades (many have lived their whole lives without ever before catching sight of the mountain range from their own homes).
Is there a resonance between what Covid-19 does to our lungs and what human activity is doing to the atmosphere? Metaphorically, the answer would seem to be yes––and now the entire population of Earth has together witnessed that impact with their own eyes.
There are several takeaways here related to that other global existential crisis, climate change. One is that it really is possible to reverse course. Already we are learning that society can change; as we power back up, we have the opportunity, and the means, to consciously and intentionally embrace new approaches to the ways we travel, work, and live.
Though there is traffic again and more jet trails above, we are not yet fully back up to speed. Skies are still much clearer in this part of California, though not the vibrant deep blues they were late March through May (back when the mileage I was getting was three weeks to the gallon, aided by the collapse of oil prices).
Are we going to let this opportunity pass? Possibly. But now that we have seen what is possible, and are aware of how fragile the petroleum market really is, I do believe as we get back up to speed that many will make their voices heard, pushing for a more measured approach that includes a wider embrace of renewable energy resources. In the United States the degree to which that happens may depend on the results of the upcoming election – and on how serious each of us is about it – but I do see it happening.