The Anthropocene is a new era that commenced with the industrial revolution in which human-induced actions are playing an epoch-making role in global environmental change.
Recently, due to the halt of anthropogenic activities under Covid-19 outbreak, skies became bluer, marine life has become more vibrant and pollution seems to have fallen extensively across the world. Earth embraced the change under the quarantine unequivocally, showing silver linings across the clouds.
Only human beings were chained to their homes but birds and wildlife were free as nature scored a victory. Free movement of wildlife was observed in human-controlled urban areas as well.
For a while now, civilisation has been threatened with intense and escalating environmental emergencies. Global warming has been widelyy acknowledged as an instantaneous threat to humankind.
The 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrated that only a few years are left to thoroughly decarbonise the global economy so that we can avoid the disastrous effects of global warming.
There is no silver bullet to achieving this and most countries are grasping with such a challenge. Yet, in this ghoulish atmosphere, the improvement in the environs is the harbinger of hope for the times to come.
Thus, the time is ripe to build on the current momentum, leaving all potential threats behind. Though environmental emergencies could potentially threaten the very existence of human life on earth, it has so far received less public attention.
The threats consist of the loss of biodiversity, reduction of water reserves, ocean acidification and decline in soil fertility.
The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health estimated more than US$ 4.6 trillion per year or 6.2 per cent of global GDP has been lost due to environmental contamination.
In 2012 DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum estimated the economic cost of global warming is more than US $1.2 trillion per year, reducing the world's economic output by 1.6 percent annually.
Against this backdrop, it is important to emphasise that nature generally has a renovation process to control many of the environmental extremities, to save the earth. Countless species become extinct following such distorted climatic events.
Now nature is acting out to soothe the world as a unitary ecosystem. Under Covid-19 closure, we get a glimpse of a future sustainable earth, preserving our scarce resources and reducing the carbon footprint.
From satellite imagery, environmental researchers as well as scientists have evaluated the air quality and observedthe emergence of cleaner air. Due to pandemic induced shutdown and a halt to extreme activities of human beings, there is reduced water and air pollution, including CO2 and NO2 emissions.
Findings of Carbon Brief postulated that compared to the same time in 2019 there was 25 percent reduction in emissions in China during February 2020 and the amount of nitrogen dioxide also dropped by 36 percent due to less fossil fuel burning.
Italy, Spain, and France – the three countries which imposed lockdowns much earlier than other European nations saw the nitrogen dioxide levels drop as well. Particulate matter (PM2.5) was suddenly down, improving the air quality index in London, Cardiff, and Bristol ever since the shutdown.
It is encouraging that after three-decade dolphins are visible in Cox's Bazar, as are sea creepers and crabs and various other marine species, as evidence of the natural rejuvenation under Covid-19 closure.
It is clear that human-induced activities including industrialisation, urbanisation, fossil fuel exhaustion, vehicular movements, overuse of chemicals and fertilisers for agriculture and discharges of effluents to water bodies were beyond the limit and took the pollution to an unbearable level.
It appears that the closure to combat Covid-19 has opened the door for nature for self-regeneration to revive her ecosystems.
However, this present state of environmental rejuvenation might be a temporary thing unless the society cares for the environment and changes its attitude.
The planet might lose the rejuvenated atmosphere to restore its past splendour of aggresive growth, the central focus of the competitive world which serves as a binding constraint on environmental concerns.
The overarching vision of human activity is hardly ever articulated in the policy arenas. A blend of policy and structural changes with national and global political will, and determination to lessen global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions at the individual, national and global level with better awareness is desirable to bring out tangible outcomes.
For the sustainability of economic development, resource efficiency needs to increase at least at the same rate as economic output.
Massive resource efficiency jumps are possible by using renewable energy, smart information and communication technology, utilising energy-saving technologies and above all changes in consumer behaviour.
As a decarbonised power generation process electricity production needs to move entirely from fossil fuel to renewable sources, as well as the shift towards circular economies where waste is reduced, reused or recycled, is expected to lessen ecological footprints.
Mowshumi Sharmin is an Assistant Director (Research) at Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management (BIGM), Plot No: E-33, Agargaon Administrative Area, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka 1207. E-mail: [email protected]m