Culture | Environmentalism | Flying | Travel

Return to Normal

I know they’re up there, just not as many. I’m sure the flight paths from Europe to America or Boston to Chicago are still traveled by some planes, but they aren’t flying over my home anymore. Chances are they aren’t over your home either. Like many businesses the airlines have furloughed thousands of employees and planes around the globe are getting an extended break from the constant flights that make up their existence. The highways and roads of the world are getting a similar respite from the constant flow of vehicles. Factories are shuttered while the curve flattens. And the planet gasps the cleaner air. The people in India see the Himalayas for the first time in a generation. People in Los Angeles see blue sky. Even here in relatively rural New Hampshire the stars seem clearer.

No, the sky isn’t empty at all. It’s as full as it ever was, we’ve just finally cleaned the windows enough to see outside. The universe pirouettes above and around us, and collectively we finally see it. Perhaps we’ll remember it when things return to abnormal. For isn’t this far closer to the planet’s normal state than the constant buzz of machinery spewing emissions into the air? Billions of years of normal versus a century or two of abnormal. We just don’t see the forest for the trees.

Too many act like temporary renters of the space we occupy. Having experienced the attitudes of renters versus homeowners, I know not all renters feel enough of a sense of ownership over where they reside to treat the place well. There are plenty of people roaming the planet with a renter’s mentality. Use it up, discard, get another one. But there are too many of us for that to go on indefinitely. There’s nothing good about COVID-19 for humanity, but the planet might feebly raise a hand to express gratitude. We’re too deep in it to know the long-term impact, but maybe we needed the pandemic to shake us all awake from the drunken stupor we’ve been in. The planet gets a much-needed breather while humans focus on something besides themselves for a bit. The return to abnormal will come, will it be enough of a jolt to reset our worldview? It seems to me that Earth could use more homeowners and fewer renters. What will the new normal be?

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