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Day 35 – Of Changes and of Warnings in the Air


Black River, a friend tells me yesterday, has become Blue River. Never has the estuary been so sparkling, crystal clear. Beyond words. With fish right up to the edges. In just 35 days.

Another friend tells a LALIT member that some streets in his village in the East, being without cars and vans and motorbikes, have been taken over by children once again, as football fields. The joyful sounds of children’s laughter can be heard as they play.

Yet another friend says that in her area, where people live in over-crowding, the fact that there are no vehicles allows everyone a new space that does not exist indoors: each family has installed a table on the road – to play cards and dominoes, to prepare vegetables for the meal. With respect, even in these conditions, for physical distancing.

Planes no longer fly overhead, causing a constant disturbance of the peace.

And in the New York City there are beautiful photographs of all the streets that were closed to vehicle traffic (by means of yellow ribbons) from 10 am to 7 pm from Friday to Monday – just pedestrians allowed with spacing respected.

The air has cleared beautifully in New Delhi. Maps show air pollution as having cleared almost completely in many Chinese cities.

So, these are the changes: pure air, a sparkling estuary at Black River, children’s laughter taking over streets, families sitting in streets, playing cards. Silence in the airspace. All this in just one month.

At the same time, some Governments have “found money” that didn’t exist in order to pay working people who cannot go to work. Other Governments, including the Mauritian Government, have organized home-delivered food parcels for the poorer families, just like magicians pull rabbits out of hats.

I mention all this to show how the dominant ideology about what is inevitable, what can be done, what can’t be done (Where will the money come from, they cry with crocodile tears) can disappear, evaporate, volatilize within one month. And the warning is: we should not fall back into the old ways of accepting our wage slavery as inevitable, accepting choking pollution as inexorable or accepting vehicles dominating children’s play-space as the will of cruel gods. We must not let what we have learnt recently, in turn, become invisible even to our own memories.

 More poignant: 

 We learnt that food is essential for everyone. If we do not have food, before we die, we will, inevitably rebel. And it will be ugly if we do not act politically so as to ensure not “our” food, but “food for all”.

 We learnt that preventive health care is what saves lives. And although it was the “invisible” branch of medicine until the epidemic, it exists. It exists though under-funded, under-appreciated, low in status (compared with cardiac surgery), and the more it succeeds, the more invisible it is. But this is what saves the most lives. And rubbish collectors save as many lives. We now know what work is “essential”. It needs the respect of proper work conditions.

 Some deniers of the gravity of the New Coronavirus epidemic, go so far now, as to deny that it is the drastic measures (lock-down and social distancing) that are curbing the epidemic. As the number of new cases falls, as the number of deaths stabilizes, they pretend that the epidemic “was not serious” in the first place.

 And though denying something like this epidemic is dangerous, denying that industrial pollution is causing millions to suffer, causing all manner of tipping points – from climate change to species extinction is even more dangerous.

 We have been warned. We have been shown that our collective action can change the atmosphere, the rivers, the seas, the streets, the noise levels. Let’s remember it. 

 Let’s demand food for all. Revenue for all. A cared-for natural world for all. And we’ve seen the kinds of things that can so easily be done, and so relatively quickly. We have seen that there are “essential workers” and non-essential bosses in the world. Let’s act on what has been shown to us, and let’s do it soon. Starting now.

 Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view.