A gift for Mother Earth


The world has become a little smaller and the streets a little quieter this past month. 

With a stay-at-home order issued April 3, Florida joined many other states and countries that already had slowed down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The New York Times, 95 percent of the population in the country is under instructions to stay at home and orders for a lockdown have been issued all over the world.  

We are indoors and most activities are paused — a change that is allowing the Earth to heal.

“A satellite that detects emissions in the atmosphere linked to cars and trucks shows huge declines in pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Atlanta,” The New York Times reported. 

NASA announced that “March 2020 shows the lowest monthly atmospheric nitrogen dioxide levels of any March during the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) data record, which spans 2005 to the present.”

 Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a key ingredient in smog, is as NASA explains, “primarily emitted from burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation” and it can be used as an indicator of changes in human activity.

The Washington Post reported air quality improvements not only in the United States but also in Asia and Italy. UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health Professor Yifang Zhu compared EPA’s Air Quality Index that measures multiple air pollutants, including NO2 and PM2.5 (fine particulate matter, smaller than a strand of human hair), from before stay-at-home orders were issued and now. The numbers are conclusive — the index “has improved by about 20 percent and recorded the longest stretch of ‘good’ air quality in March since at least 1995.”

Other parts of the world are recording the same type of change.

According to National Geographic,  “In India, where air pollution is among the world’s worst, people are reporting seeing the Himalayas for the first time from where they live. In Delhi, where air is normally choking, levels of both PM2.5 and the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide fell more than 70 percent.”

The same temporary slash in air pollution levels around the world has been documented by CNN, The Guardian, USA Today, Forbes and many other news outlets. The drop has been simply amazing.

Paul Monks, a professor of air pollution at the University of Leicester and former chair of the UK government’s science advisory committee on air quality, posed an intriguing question quoted in The Guardian: “Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy?” 

Are we? 

While we have been adjusting to our new reality and creating new routines, scientists have been busy recording observations and gathering numbers. They must probably have their thinking cap on right now trying to discover ways to make the blue skies last a while longer — or not go away at all. That would be the perfect gift to Mother Earth. 

Stay safe, healthy and have a happy Mother’s Day!