Earth Day 2020 – Right now it’s cold and windy outside here in central New Hampshire. The temperature is struggling to get beyond freezing – its 33.5º outside but with the windchill it feels like 25ºF! Happy Earth Day. I think Mother Earth is trying to send us a message…I’m in charge here and I don’t care what your manmade calendars say. I will snow when I want to snow. It was snowing this morning when we woke – enough to cover the driveway but thankfully not enough to stay around all day.
Celebrating Earth Day 2020, our quarantine has 2.6 billion people in 185 nations and regions of the world on lockdown or a “time out” as I like to think of it has given the earth a chance to heal itself a bit, catch its breath so to speak – while we hold ours.
The reduction in traffic – air, auto, ships and trains has quieted the world, literally. Seismologists worldwide have seen the quieting of the earth like never before. Seismologists able to now see 5.5 earthquakes register on their seismographs a half a world away, when in pre-quarantine our daily noise would normally drown that out. Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels saw the drop in the activity immediately. He can usually see the ebbs and flows of the city and right now during the lockdown levels are resembling Christmas Day levels.
Erica Walker, a public health researcher at Boston University usually measures the noise pollution on her walks through the Kenmore Square-Fenway Park area of Boston. A normal conversation measures around 60-70 decibels and on a normal day on her walk through the Kenmore Square the area measures 90 decibels, 95 decibels when the T rumbles by, a level that chronic exposure can impair hearing. Her walks during the lockdown have quieted down to 30 decibels. People living in cities like Wuhan, New York and Rome are hearing birds for the first time. One of the more searched phrases recently has been “birds are louder”. The reduction in noise pollution is a welcome reminder to older generations of the quieter days while stressing out others who aren’t used to the noise and it’s causing them to be anxious.
The oceans are quieter as well with the reduced traffic. Marine ecologists at Cornell, Michelle Fournet says they are “experiencing an unprecedented pause in ocean noise” not experienced in decades. The ambient noise from ships and other marine traffic can increase stress hormone levels in marine life affecting their reproduction. The North Pacific humpback whales that started swimming to the southeast Alaska waters with their newborn calves are swimming in some of the quietest waters in decades.
Scientists are seeing evidence via satellite of reduced levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, dramatically improving air quality in places like China, Italy, and India. The Himalayas can now be seen from parts of India for the first time in decades.
There are reports from all over the world about how wildlife is being affected by the pandemic. Some are taking advantage of the situation like the rare reptiles nesting on the beaches in Thailand. Reduced marine traffic have allowed the water in the canals around Venice, Italy to clear so jellyfish and other fish can now be seen. However, empty streets and restaurant have left some animals without a source of food. Deer in Japan’s Nara Park have become so dependent on tourists feeding them, they’ve taken to the streets in search of food. The monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand also dependent on tourists for food are mobbing the town in search of food – even turning on one another. Rats in New York City dependent on the restaurants for their food are cannibalizing each other even eating their young.
But despite the lockdown and the billions of people who are staying at home. There is garbage that is showing up unfortunately – medical masks and rubber gloves being left behind in parking lots and in grocery carts, even washing up on the beaches in Hong Kong.
This Earth Day I have been inside – the wind still making it a brisk 23ºF – too cold for April 22nd. I plan to get more seeds started inside today to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Planting something on Earth Day always a tradition. The quarantine has probably, hopefully, made it one of the cleanest Earth Days ever. At the very least it has given the earth a chance to catch her breath and take a break to self-heal. Hopefully mankind too can do the same.
Coronavirus Pandemic Earth Pollution Noise – The Atlantic
Making the Best of Earth Day 2020 – Thurston Talks
Starving Rats Resort to War – NY Post
Dramatic Fall in China Pollution – The Guardian