Amidst the emerging climate disasters, this path is common sense yet not commonly talked about

Rest is the most uncomfortable act in today’s productivity-driven economic culture, but it is evidently becoming more and more necessary for the restoration of planet Earth. It has become a disappearing art in today’s fast-paced world, as seen by the rising rates of insomnia, anxiety, and despair. We are continuously looking for ways to feel productive, pushing ourselves to do more and more without stopping. More income, more startups, more accolades, more unicorns, more cars, more skyscrapers, more clothes, more footwear, more development, more shopping malls, more convenience, more adrenaline rush, more toys, more houses, more parties, more entertainment, more travel, more profit, more luxuries, more technology, more inventions, more territory, more customers, more money except for more time to pause, reflect, and rest.

As humans, we require only shelter, water, food, fiber, and energy to survive. And, of course, the companionship of our loved ones. However, when we look at our trillion-dollar economy, we see that it only accounts for less than five percent of our basic necessities. Primarily, ninety five percent is made up of our secondary needs and demands.

How does it matter? Actually, it is this ninety five percent of not-so-essential economic activity that significantly contributes to climate change. It has been more than two hundred years since the industrial revolution, and for all these years, there has not been a single day except for the Covid-19 pandemic that we gave considerable rest to our not-so-essential economic activities.

The studies on the Covid-19 pandemic that are now appearing suggest that Planet Earth has been an unlikely beneficiary of the corona. With the global lockdown in place, the Internet was flooded with articles and images depicting Nature hitting the reset button, reclaiming the spaces to heal itself as anthropogenic activities slowed. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic’s doom and gloom, there appears to be a silver lining and some positive outcomes.

Some of these are as follows as noted by Ashwani Kumar, Muneer Ahmad Malla & Anamika Dubey in their recent report on Corona Outbreak:


Decrease in Air Pollution

Coronavirus has cut emissions faster than years of climate negotiations. In India, like in the rest of the world, with strict lockdown in place and with a lesser number of people venturing, the country has seen a drastic fall in pollution levels. In response to the current Covid-19 pandemic and with countries suspending transport and millions of people put in lockdown to flatten the curve, global air pollution significantly came down, with carbon monoxide emission reduced by more than 50%.


Environmental Noise Pollution Reduction

The reports show that noise reductions have gone deep, with seismologists reporting less seismic noise. For example, in Brussels, the seismic noise caused by anthropogenic activities is reported to be down by 1/3 compared with the prelockdown levels. Likewise, the decrease in the use of public and private transport along with other commercial activities has caused a significant fall in the levels of noise pollution. With cruises temporarily being on hold, oceans were more in a state of calm. This calmness and decrease in ocean noise reduced the stress on aquatic creatures.


Immaculate Beaches

….all these unintended measures have caused a remarkable change in the appearance of many beaches in the world. Prominent examples are the beaches of Salinas (Ecuador), Barcelona (Spain), and Acapulco (Mexico), all these beaches now look cleaner and with clear waters. Similarly, Mandal et al. and Saadat et al. while studying the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown on the surface water quality, found that the water quality of Vembanad Lake, Kerala, increased significantly. The authors also in their study noticed a significant decrease (34%) in the suspended particulate matter (SPM) concentration of the lake water during the lockdown period.


Animals on Street

The environmental changes brought by the coronavirus were first visible from space. Then, as the disease and the lockdown spread, they could be sensed in the sky above our heads, the air in our lungs, and even the ground below our feet. While humans are restricted to their homes under global lockdown, the wild animals all over the planet seem to have come to reclaim their territory. The media outlets are tweeting and uploading several images and videos showing animals on the streets. The emergence of wild animals in urban areas is mostly because there is peace and calm, which attracts these animals to the residential areas


Feathers Flock Together

While the home confinement rules/lockdown and social distancing have stopped the movement of peoples outside, at the same time, this global lockdown has allowed birds and wildlife to flourish and enjoy all the freedom of nature. Reports confirm that a growing flock of thousands of flamingos beating their black and pink-lined wings has been seen splashing over the glistening water of Nartan Lagoon, of the Adriatic coast. According to park authorities, since January 2020, the number of these birds has been found to increase by 3-fold up to some 3,000. Similarly, the wildlife seems to have regained all their absolute rights and is enjoying the freedom of nature (Agence France–Presse). Similar cases were found on the Indian beaches with flocks of flamingos flying to these beaches with the number increasing by more than 25% compared with previous years.


What’s remarkable to note here is that nature was able to heal itself dramatically without any human intervention or large investments. If a few months of economic lockdown can start to heal the planet so dramatically, then that is probably what is required to address climate change. Any lay being would be lay enough to not put his primary needs for survival into danger for secondary desires and demands. But humans are unfortunately wise but not lay enough to realize this.

So far, the primary impediment to climate change has been the imminent threat to economic activity, which explains decades of futile international negotiations.

But what if we consciously plan well to rest, limiting our economic activity to necessities for allowing the planet to heal itself?

This could be accomplished by rationing enough essentials for people to live well and comfortably. People who work in the essential economic industries can continue to work, while others can rest, engage in hobbies, reading, farming, art, music, culture/community building, walk, hike, bike, and travel in an eco-friendly manner, or take turns in the essential economic industries. It does not have to be a complete lockdown like the Covid epidemic, which resulted in human misery, but rather a well-planned lockdown of only non-essential economic operations. Over and beyond the principle of growth/greed, the economic principle of sufficiency can be applied.

Academics, corporations, and governments can utilise this time to research and develop integral ways of living, working, designing, and making legislation, so that we don’t make the same mistakes when we return. It may also have a good impact on human health conditions and communities since removing them from the never-ending economic and material race can bring forth their intrinsic human potential. They can be educated on how to live better in connection with nature and this will also help people focus on their health and relationships, which is often the most overlooked factor in the economic growth-driven age. It would also be simple to induce the necessary behavioural change with free time on hand. Farmers and villages can be trained and resourced on how to repair soil and produce food organically.

In light of the rising climate adversities (like China’s drought, Pakistan’s flash flood, etc.), if we continue to aim for more economic growth, we will be sawing off the branch we are sitting on. Recent calculations by Simon Michaux already show that we do not have enough minerals for the required green transition.  We have already exceeded the planetary boundaries, and it is far beyond time to start planning for rest before it is too late to restore.

In such a grim scenario small countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, Malawi, Timor-Leste, the Maldives, etc., who contribute the least to carbon emissions but are the most vulnerable, must emerge as influential voices on the global stage to demand justice through bold actions. Alternatively, we risk jeopardizing our collective future amidst escalating calamities.


Contributed by

Sneha Poddar