While humans take timeout for coronavirus, Planet Earth wins

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A couple of years back, History Channel had a series called "Life After People," in which experts in various fields speculated about what might become of Earth if humanity instantly disappeared.

Among other things, the environment bounced back rather quickly. Just about all signs of human development eroded, and nature reclaimed Planet Earth.

On the screen, the natural flora and fauna bounded back in a relatively short period of time. Areas such as manicured parks, golf courses and farms returned quickly to their natural state. Many animals that were driven to near extinction by man's encroachment on their habitat made a comeback.

Even pets and livestock that were modified through selective breeding over only a few generations reverted back to a pre-human-intervention state.

I remember watching the series with awe, but also realizing it was all pure speculation and fantasy. Humans are not going anywhere.

Even this COVID-19 pandemic will not eradicate us. We will survive this too. Interestingly, though, while we are sheltering in place, we are seeing signs that without people, nature is making inroads back.

Air quality is improving in many places. This is attributed directly to our reduction in consuming fossil fuels and traveling less. Across continents, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen as countries try to contain the spread of the COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic to make a start in cleaning our air.

At the local level, we see some improvement from our windows as we shelter in place. Most amenities, public parks and recreation areas have been closed to us. Fortunately, many nature trails and leisure paths remain, and we see many more people, sometimes with families, taking advantage of these areas available to us by bike and foot.

What will happen when this immediate crisis is over? Will we return to things as they were? Will we burn fossil fuels as before?

What can we do? We are driving less now out of necessity. When things get back to normal, or some form of new normal, can we continue some of these practices? Can we plan and combine our shopping trips so that we buy groceries less frequently?

I have written previously about the ubiquitous leaf blower. Must we blow leaves as often as we do currently?

Perhaps this is an opportunity for a new beginning. It's really up to us. Out of every crisis, there are always opportunities.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek. john.a.riolo@gmail.com

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