Quarantine Chronicles Day 74: What on Earth is happening during the COVID lockdowns

Come on, sheeple. Quit looking for sinister sources of the COVID-19 virus. It’s not about Bill Gates wanting to plant microchips into everyone. It’s not the evil Dr. Anthony Fauci cackling madly in his laboratory. It’s not the US Mint polluting your pocket change with American Samoa bat quarters.

In some ways, and I know this is a stretch here, COVID is a good thing, or at least a much-needed wake-up call. And it’s one that we should pay attention to and spring out of bed and put some clothes on rather than swatting at the snooze button and sleeping in until your hunger for a sandwich finally gets you out of the sack.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were flying all over the world: Italy, Spain, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos. Jetting to San Francisco just for a cup of coffee. And driving like madmen, making countless non-essential car trips to wait in line at Starbucks with the engine running, a jaunt to Circle K for a Coke. And that’s just the stupid small stuff we insignificant civilians were doing. On a larger scope, factories fumed 24 hours a day, industry rumbled on without a break, refineries burned, oil tankers, container vessels and thousands of other ships ran bumper-to-bumper across the oceans.

You may recall, the planet was going to hell. Climate experts and other earth scientists had pretty much hung their head in despair because all of their warnings and all of their pleadings to listen to them were going unheeded, if not outright denied and laughed at.

And, even now, there are science- and medicine-deniers who want nothing more than to hurry up and rush back to those days of wanton waste and outright encouragement from governments such as our to ease restrictions, not just on travel, but on practically all polluting industries.

But scientists, as well as scores of environmental groups, are seeing the perhaps paradoxically beneficial effects of the world’s sporadic and far-flung lockdowns to combat COVID-19 on the planet. To prevent one disease from spreading, the lockdowns have also at least forestalled the effects of humans on the planet.

I’m not suggesting conspiracy theorists take this idea and run with it, but inasmuch as it’s taken this worldwide disaster to slow our avidity to wreck life on Earth, if scientists didn’t build the virus in a secret salt cave in Montana and release it in order to save the planet, then I have no further explanation that makes any sense. You won’t listen to years of warning about onrushing climate change? Here, have a COVID.

Since the shutdowns and lockdowns began worldwide, the planet has rediscovered the spring in its step.

A lot of evidence is just anecdotal. Don’t tell me the air isn’t undeniably clearer and bluer, or that there’s a little less ambient garbage in the gutters and sidewalks, or that traffic hasn’t dwindled, especially in the earlier part of the lockdown.

The effect has, in tandem with the pandemic, been worldwide. Carbon emissions have plummeted by as much as 25 percent in China; in India thermal power generation growth fell below zero for the first time in 3 decades.

Globally, the drop in emissions is estimated to be 4 to 7 percent by the end of the year, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a move in the right direction, and the biggest drop in emissions since the World War II.

The Earth, just its own physical worn-out self, is wearing a happy face now, which, admittedly isn’t very tasteful, but the measures and sacrifices that countries have been forced to take to slow the spread of coronavirus, are pretty much what the world will have to do at this point to forestall climate change. There aren’t any countries of any size that would close down simply because of a disaster that’s not happening right now.

What scientists do have to worry about, is the return to normal, however new that normal will be, because of the same woes that we used to worry about.

But why worry? Just because President Trump has eviscerated the laws and regulations meant to protect the country’s water, air, land and wildlife and has filled key environmental government agencies with greedy oilmen, no less an environmental expert than a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement to the New York Times recently that the agency is  “delivering on President Trump’s commitment to return the agency to its core mission: Providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”

If that doesn’t make you feel better, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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