One of the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic has been the drastic reduction in pollution around the world due to the restrictions in travelling and mobility of people. Amongst the profusion of dreadful news, we can cling to this positive result of the lockdowns imposed worldwide because of Covid-19.
The atmosphere has benefited from a drop in air and land travelling. Also the temporary shutting down of factories and companies has slowed down the release of greenhouse gas emissions into air. In many countries, air and water pollution levels have plummeted. In the Indian capital, New Delhi, infamously known for its choking air, the clouds appear much cleaner. In Venice, the usually dark waters of the city’s canals are now so clean that fish can be seen for the first time in many years because of the reduction in boat traffic. Dolphins swam closer to ports, racoons emerged in New York’s Central Park and mountain goats are roaming streets in Wales.
In a matter of three months or so, strict confinements and hard quarantines all over the planet achieved some of the targets of the Paris Agreement of 2015 on climate change and its negative impacts! This point was highlighted by Pope Francis in one of his Sunday addresses in St. Peter’s Square when he said that the pandemic made many people reflect on their relationship with the environment and called on the faithful to be more caring towards our common home. “The lockdown has reduced pollution and revealed once more the beauty of so many places free from traffic and noise. Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for looking after our common home.” he said.
Five years ago, Pope Francis authored the encyclical Laudato Si’, a landmark document on the need to protect the earth. In the document, the Pontiff invited humanity “to a new dialogue about how we build the future of the planet.” He went on writing: “We need a conversion that unites all of us, because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, with its human roots, concerns and touches us all.”
No doubt, Laudato Si’ has raised awareness vis a vis the urgent need to care for our planet. The fruits are patent all over the world with ample initiatives responding to the appeal of Pope Francis.
The current crisis brought about by Covid-19 has highlighted poignantly the fragility and vulnerability of our common home. The invitation to listen and answer the cry of the earth and of the poor continues to reverberate more than ever.