“Some old-fashioned things, like fresh air and sunshine, are hard to beat!” ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
New Year’s Eve 2018 I was walking on the beach in Santa Catalina, Panama, a small fishing village 5 ½ hours south of Panama City with a population of only 300 people. I looked up and the night sky looked like something out of a cartoon. The stars were so bright, like tiny flashlights, and there were millions of them, looking right back at me. That moment took me back to the Tucson planetarium I remember visiting when I was in 3rd grade.
This past Friday night, in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, I looked up into the sky and felt like I was transported back to that tiny fishing village in Panama. I cannot remember ever seeing so many stars in the sky when I wasn’t on a remote beach in Central America.
In the midst of the fear, worry, and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, each day seems to bring news that’s worse than the day before, not just the virus but with everything else that is still happening around the world:
- Tornados: Two deaths were reported in Mississippi on Sunday from coronavirus. 11 deaths were reported on Easter Sunday in Mississippi from the tornados that ripped through the state. That doesn’t include the deaths in 2 other states and the millions of dollars worth of damage these people are now faced with while trying to social distance.
- Wildfires: How about the wildfires that were burning for 10 days and were only extinguished on Tuesday, 1 ½ miles away from Chernobyl in the Ukraine! Do we really need a nuclear accident right now?
- Earthquakes: The 21 earthquakes that have shaken parts of the world since March 1, 2020, that barley made news amongst the news of COVID-19.
- Cancer: We can’t forget about the 3500+ people that were diagnosed with cancer in the United States this week in the midst of figuring out how to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus.
COVID-19 is just an added “bonus” to everything else the world still has going on. Mother Nature didn’t hit the pause button for tornado season, wildfires, earthquakes, cancer or other life happenings when the coronavirus entered the picture. So, we begin to question, “Is there any ‘good’ in all of this?”
“Is There Any ‘Good’ In All Of This…?”
The cause for concern is justified. But, as in most major disasters, tragedies, and public health threats, there are reasons for hope, and even optimism. They may be hard to see, even if you’re a “cup-half-full” person, and especially if you have been impacted more than others during these times of uncertainty by a loss of a job, other world issues, or the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19 or other causes.
Implying there is “good” or “bad” that is to come because of this virus or any disaster is just purely someone’s opinion. The truth is that Mother Nature is going to continue to do what she does, cause mayhem from time to time in different places around the world, flow smoothly for a period of time and then BAM change things up again just when we got used to the perfect 72 degree sunny day.
I won’t preach that what we are seeing happening around the world so far in 2020 is good or bad, but there is certainly change that is happening due to this virus. One that is hard to miss are the photos people are posting online of less air pollution around the world. And Friday night in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, I saw stars staring at me, shining as bright as I had only ever seen them over a thousand miles away.
The air pollution has decreased all over the world since the world basically has been on lockdown since the coronavirus began spreading rapidly in January:
- A map of the Northeast United States show atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution drop by 30%.
- Los Angeles is seeing the longest stretch of good air quality in at least 40 years with no smog in site.
- Researchers at Columbia University saw carbon monoxide emissions fall more than 50% below normal levels in New York City.
- Italy in lockdown in response to the coronavirus, Venice canals are now virtually clear of boats, leaving the water transparent enough that fish could be seen.
- Residents in Punjab, India are reporting that parts of the Himalayas (100 miles away) are now visible for the first time in decades.
Not to say the air quality won’t go right back to where it was when the world gets back to its new “normal”. But shouldn’t we ask the question, “What can we learn from this?” What will even this brief time with cleaner air quality do to the world? The answer is, none of us honestly know.
The world could be sending us a global ripple wave of awakening, or maybe the earth is just doing what she does every so often and we are just all feeling the effects right now more than we have in a long time. Some people are dealing with earthquakes, others just lost their home to a tornado, but right now…ALL of us around the world are sorting through a global pandemic.
In the same way we can all look at experiences in our own lives that were traumatic or challenging, we usually can see the gift in what happened as something that made us stronger and although hard, was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to us.
We are always going to have viruses, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, cancer and death. Life is always going to be moving forward and throw challenges in our paths. While we are all having a tough time adjusting to the self-isolation measures we are facing that are newer to most, maybe we can take a moment to acknowledge any small silver lining amongst all of this.
Step outside tonight wherever you are, take a deep breath in of the air that is a little cleaner today, look up and see what the night sky has to offer. Maybe you will see the stars shining a little brighter, and even if you only feel at peace for one second…know that we are all looking up at the same sky.