COVID-19 has forced me to slow down and appreciate the world around me in ways unexpected. The smell of the ocean air as the trade winds blow is fresher and cleaner than ever. The sky is a new shade of blue, which reflects on the ocean creating even more unique shades of blue. Mt. Kala looks crisper and greener than ever. Even the Sun seems to be smiling as she fuels the Earth from above. Mother Earth is winning, and I want to be on her team.
It feels like our mother has forced us to take a “time out,” giving us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset our lives. During this “time out,” we are experiencing a cleaner world. The most dramatic improvement is the freshness of the air, especially here in Hawaii. Fresh air is vital to human health. The World Health Organization estimates that 3.9 million people die each year from air pollution. While COVID-19 could eventually kill millions before it’s over, sheltering in place has caused air quality to improve by over 50% in cities around the world. If sustained, this will save millions of lives every year. The overall quality of life will go up for all of us. Mother Earth is winning this round.
The most significant change is the reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. We are driving and flying a lot less—almost none in the case of flying. For driving, we can switch to electric vehicles, which are much cleaner than gas-powered machines. We can also carpool and telecommute for many things. Flying in airplanes is a different problem. People of means are used to being able to hop on a flight anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Ironically this privilege is what got us into the COVID-19 mess in the first place as people unwittingly traveled by air and spread the disease around the world. Clean air travel is one of the most significant pieces of the environmental puzzle that we need to fix if we want to stay on the winning team of Mother Earth.