Big Sur (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Rubinfien)
Big Sur (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Rubinfien)

As COVID-19 Spikes, Nature Finds Healing

November 1, 2020

When quarantine started, I didn’t want to leave my house. After all, the pandemic was raging. But spending the whole day and the whole week at home started to take its toll. Sometimes I couldn’t even differentiate between the days in the week as they all felt the same. 

Then, I started to notice on social media — people going outside, playing on the beach, hiking on the hills, running in the woods. People were turning to nature more often than before. 

After a few weeks of seeing story after story on Snapchat about the great outdoors, I decided to venture outside, too.

 My sister and I headed to a hiking trail near the beach in San Francisco, and it was as if I had forgotten how the world looked. The scenery came straight from a painting — lush green grass, colorful flowers everywhere, and a clear blue sky. The day was warm and as we continued to walk I felt the breeze on my ears and my fingertips. 

For the next couple of weeks, I couldn’t go outside because school became too busy. Then summer vacation came, and I headed for the hills. Again, I felt awestruck after my weeks indoors. The trail wound through the mountains, and I enjoyed the combination of shade from the trees under the beaming sun. But this time, more people passed by on the trail and some of them  didn’t wear masks, so  that sparked my fears again. 

Many people posted, blogged and wrote articles about how the pandemic was allowing nature to heal. As the environment improved, I saw reports of wild animals returning to settled lands because the people had left, and standard smoggy gray skies changing to bright blue. Water in places around the world was becoming clear. “That’s great!” I thought. But then I realized that nature was only healing because people were staying home. 

 

Wildlife coming back out now that humans are gone. (Photo courtesy of Aby Zarza)

Our carbon footprint has decreased as we stay at home, but it may not last. A United Nations Programme article, “The Intricate Balance of Life and Nature: Lessons from COVID-19,” reported that “the environmental improvements seen since the outbreak are temporary, and come on the backs of human distress and economic slowdown.” COVID-19 has also resulted in an increase of medical waste — all those rubber gloves and disposable masks and antiseptic wipes — and what that will mean for the environment. 

It becomes terrifying when we realize that environmental improvement only happens because of the economic slowdown, which is detrimental in other ways. 

 The time for change is now. The environment is changing and the election is right around the corner. Eastside students and their families who can vote must vote. We must see the government giving more support to smaller businesses instead of large corporate companies, people using carpools or bikes, and everyone becoming more environmentally friendly.

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