By E. Jennifer Esses, M.D., FACOG
I have to admit before this year, I really didn’t give “Earth Day” too much thought. Sure, I love the beach, the outdoors and nature as much as anyone who lives in our area. And I want to continue to enjoy all the beauty our Emerald Coast has to offer. However, true introspection of how all of creation is intimately connected has taken on new meaning in the past few months. This year is very different. All would agree 2020 has seen unprecedented events world- wide. Corona virus has changed our daily lives in ways that most of us have never experienced. What is interesting, however, is not only how this pandemic is affecting human behaviors, but also the effect it has had globally on the environment. It isn’t uncommon at all for natural disasters to affect human behavior. After Hurricane Michael, our entire community experienced significant ripple effects to the economy and livelihood. Lives were uprooted in a moment, and neighboring communities responded with compassion. The difference between what we are seeing with Corona virus and other natural disasters, is that all the changes we are making now are voluntary. Rather than humans changing their behavior because of nature, it has been reversed. Humans changing their behavior has directly impacted the Earth. And guess what? That is truly what Earth day is all about. Let me provide some specific examples.
The nitrogen dioxide emissions and production of greenhouse gasses over China have dropped over 25% since the Coronavirus pandemic began significantly reducing air pollution. This can also be seen in the smog over Los Angeles and all of Northern California. Historical data from the EPA suggests that this may be the longest stretch of clean air there since 1980. Beirut Lebanon, a city known for high levels of pollution, has also shown much clearer skies and improved air quality. Similarly, it is said that inhabitants in India can see Mt. Everest and the peaks of the Himalayan mountains which haven’t been visible for thirty years due to pollution.
Families are spending more quality time together. Churches and individuals have stretched themselves to think outside the traditional confines of four walls to help others. Prioritizing rest is important; in fact God commanded it. Exodus 20:6, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is Sabbath to the Lord your God.”
And truthfully, humans and the land are far more productive when allowed periods of rest. Farmers know this; you must allow your fields a fallow year to be more productive. The health of the Earth and our own lives are directly connected both physically and spiritually. The Corona virus has revealed that to us.
Dr E. Jennifer Esses, OB/GYN, has been in private practice in Okaloosa/Walton Counties since 2001. She has delivered well over 3,000 babies in her career. Prior to private practice, she served active duty in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Eglin AFB as the Eglin OB/GYN Flight Commander. She is currently affiliated with Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast and delivers at ‘The Family Birth Place.’ You can read her blog, “Running on Faith,” at http://runningonfaith-beachstork.blogspot.com.
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