These are difficult days for humanity with most of us now housebound to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Quite rightly, this life-and-death issue has to take priority until the threat passes. However, unusual times like these have created an link between pollution and the coronavirus that offers us the opportunity to view things in a different way and make some interesting observations.
Using less and treading lightly on the world
For quite a while now, we’ve known that the world is struggling under the weight of human consumption and human pollution. There have been great amounts of progress towards minimising unnecessary consumption and pollution, especially plastic pollution, even though much, much more needs to be done. However, with the coronavirus threat, many people have gone into super-consumption mode and are stock-piling. It’s understandable because people are afraid, but it’s interesting to observe.
Also, any concern about plastic pollution has dissipated temporarily. The amount of food being stockpiled with plastic packaging is astonishing. The protective equipment for health professionals (all very necessary of course) appears to be mostly plastic. The coronavirus testing kits being manufactured at pace contain lots of plastic. Hand-sanitiser dispensers are almost always plastic. The UK has (temporarily?) abolished the charge on plastic bags at supermarkets.
I agree that this can’t be helped at the moment and protecting people has to be our immediate priority; but we also have to remember that we’re protecting people so we can continue to have meaningful lives. If we choke the world with plastic, we might find it hard to live in such a place.
I keep thinking of Satish Kumar’s call to “tread lightly on the world” (see Elegant Simplicity – The Art of Living Well). It’s a good thing to keep in mind. There’s nothing wrong with treading lightly on the world with everything we do, but the human race doesn’t have a good track record of doing that.