You will, I’m sure, be familiar with this saying: every cloud has a silver lining. I am not downplaying the grief, the terror, the lost jobs and the lost lives that this virus is causing. I simply propose that there is much we can learn and improve about ourselves, as well as appreciate about the world, as a result of this ‘dark cloud’.
Peace and Tranquility
I went to the nature reserve today. Usually it’s a bustling place – gorgeous, but bustling. I’ve only lived in this town for a little over a year, and the nature reserve is by far my favourite part of town. Beautiful trees, lots of birds and lots of water. And people. Lots of people.
Its beauty makes it very popular. Not today though. I drove up, expecting to find few cars in the parking. We are in the middle of lockdown but I had to go out to do the shopping. The pet store where I get the dog food is in the same village as the nature reserve, so I figured I’d kill 2 birds with one stone – do my shopping and my permitted once-a-day dog walk at the same time.
The car park gates were closed, so I parked on the verge and walked in through a still-open footpath entrance. It was eerie, a bit like a scene from the movie ’28 days’. There wasn’t a soul in sight. It was like a deserted world and I was the only human left.
Let Nature Make The Noise
Normally it’s hard to find room to park in the carpark. Though its emptiness was eerie, it wasn’t scary. I set off on one of the trails and immediately heard the birdsong all the more clearly. Infact, they seemed really, really noisy!
Without traffic and aeroplane noises, we can hear the natural world again. It reminded me of when I lived in the middle of nowhere in Argentina – every time I opened my door I would hear the cacophony of the frog chorus. Nature can be deafening.
Learn To Enjoy Your Own Company
I continued along the trail and began to feel so much more relaxed than I would normally. I let my dog off the lead – there was no one around for us to bump into.
I loved having no one else around. I cherished it. I imagine that normally only the likes of kings and queens can command such a treasure for themselves, not needing to share it with others or have it tainted by them. It felt so peaceful.
I often write about nature and its benefits. At this time of crisis it is even more important to connect with nature. And right now, much of the animal life is less hidden away than it would normally be.
The Planet Can Breathe Again
Some days ago, someone had asked what I was grateful for that day. I went out on a limb and said, ‘The peacefulness that lockdown creates. The fact that the planet can breathe again…’.
Do you feel it too? Fewer cars, fewer chimneys spewing out pollution, less rubbish being tossed onto the ground…
One of the symptoms of Covid-19 is difficulty in breathing. We have been choking this planet with our actions for decades. Ironically, those of us now suffering from Covid-19 understand all too well exactly what it feels like to not be able to breathe properly.
Satellite images show a massive drop in global nitrogen dioxide levels since the virus took over the world. All the combined G8 and G20 climate change meetings over the last decade have probably failed to accomplish what this tiny particle has done in the space of a few weeks in reducing our emissions.
Can We Learn To Be Less Materialistic?
Clearly, we need factories. However, we certainly don’t need all the ‘stuff’ that comes out of them – either from the chimneys or the conveyor belts. We also need cars, but do we really need to drive everywhere, even to the local shop that is just a 5 minute walk away?
What will we have learned from this experience, once we’re out the other side? Will we stop buying as much ‘stuff’, having seen how we’ve managed without most of it for weeks?
The Positive Consequences
Covid-19 presents us with opportunities that were almost impossible to imagine before, not just the chance for the planet to breathe again. Humans are still at war, just no longer with each other. There is currently peace in many previously war-torn countries as they battle to fight a shared, invisible enemy.
Children now see much more of their parents, who might otherwise have lost precious hours every day in the never-ending commute to work. Every day when I walk my dogs I see so many more people on the hills, whole families walking together.
I imagine both the dogs and the kids appreciating the increased time with the parents, doing things together, breathing fresh air.
There is no more rushing around, arriving late, battling with traffic, trying to squeeze into a tube train intended for far fewer people. Instead, we can stop and appreciate the detail of the beauty all around us – especially now, in spring, when everything is blossoming.
It’s also brought out the best in people (and yes, the worse in some, but let’s focus on the positive here). Across the world people are coming together to support each other, either online or in person. Neighbours prepare food for the vulnerable and ill in their vicinity.
Hundreds of thousands of people here in the UK have volunteered to help the NHS. Professionals are offering their services, courses, time and advice for free when previously they charged for it. We are looking out for each other.
We watch movies about impending invasion by aliens – one of the few events likely to make the human race pull together. A global virus, clearly, has the same effect.
Learning To Be Grateful
And let’s not forget that while many of us are safely protected in the self-isolation, there are many whose jobs require them to be on the frontline. I don’t mean just the doctors and nurses risking their lives to save others.
I mean too those often overlooked people doing jobs that we take for granted: the supermarket checkout workers, delivery drivers, and posties. What would we do without them? How many people does a checkout worker share the air with every day? And they don’t even get a mask to wear.
Perhaps this experience will help us appreciate what we do have. If we can’t get an extra pack of loo roll, or a tin of baked beans now, some of us go into panic. But in fact, the majority of humans on the planet have less access to food than we currently do, even with the empty supermarket shelves that we’re faced with.
The economic impact of Covid-19 is devastating and will certainly leave many in financial hardship. Perhaps we will learn to not take for granted plentiful food. We might have more compassion for those for whom life is one long experience of not having enough food on the table.
Lessons We Must All Face
This virus is very levelling – it doesn’t care how wealthy you are, what car you drive, or how fancy your job is. There are few things in life with the power to do that. Some of us are so used to having what is essentially a very privileged life that this virus is probably the first thing to have ever really, truly, rocked the boat.
I once had everything I wanted, and lost it all. The fight to get back on my feet taught me not to take things for granted. It also taught me to value and be grateful for things in life that are not possessions.
Will this global disaster teach us to share more, to be more patient and understanding? To value what we have instead of always wanting more?
Sir David Attenborough said “In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace. The natural world produces the comfort that can come from nothing else. And we are part of the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.”
Perhaps this is a chance to start making changes before it is too late. Not just for the environment, but for ourselves too. Appreciate what we do have. Make the most of the present moment – not live for tomorrow, next year’s holiday, or the new house – none of that is certain. The only thing that is certain, that we have, is this present moment.
If every cloud has a silver lining, let’s learn from the cloud of the Corona crisis.