Apple TV launched a documentary special earlier on Earth Day, The Year Earth Changed. Narrated by David Attenborough, the timely documentary revealed how Earth has changed during the year of pandemic.
Los Angeles experienced its best air quality for 40 years. In Jalandhar people can finally see the Himalayas from their rooftop for the first time. Meanwhile a waddle of penguins are walking across the street at Cape Town.
The moment we human paused, Earth was able to breathe again. The astonishing speed and variety of nature’s responses have shown that even modest changes to our lives can make a vital difference to the wildlife.
However, with more and more people getting vaccinated, it seems we’re just one step away from being able to travel again. When given a second chance after (or nearly at the end of) the pandemic, can we make it right this time?
A Second Chance to Re-Wild
Human comes from the nature just like all the other creatures. As discussed earlier, with or without us, the natural world will rebuild. It’s not about saving the planet but saving us the human.
The pandemic has given us a second chance to think of how we shall coexist with wildlife. It’s important to realise that we can’t take it for granted, and we do not own the planet to ourselves. But we do have the responsibility to come up with creative solutions to share our planet with all lives on Earth. As suggested in the documentary, maybe there could be some small shutdowns every single summer or nightly beach closures and share the space with different species.
A Second Thought before a Second Chance for Everything
While the planet revitalised itself during the global lockdown, we human also created countless waste during the pandemic. From disposable masks, hazmat suits, vaccine-related waste, to packaging materials from online shopping and food deliveries.
For people like you and me, what we can do with those medical waste might be very limited, but next time when we want to order a coffee take-away, or some fresh meat and seafood to deliver to our door, we should remind ourselves of the context below.
It takes somewhere between 450-1,000 years for plastics to decompose. And Styrofoam, the most commonly used cold-chain shipping insulator, simply does NOT degrade or break down over time.
Recycling is a good idea, but sometimes un-achievable. Taking Styrofoam for example, it can only be recycled when it is “clean” and uncontaminated by food (which is extremely rare), and even then manufacturers lose money when they recycle it. That’s why such recycling is rarely done which causes big problem to our environment.
However, the good news is we’re seeing more and more packaging providers developing high-performing thermal shippers made from natural ingredients, making cold chain insulating materials truly recyclable.
Some of these products are made with renewable raw and post-consumption materials. The manufacturing processes use minimal power and the finished product is entirely compostable. These products are as good as Styrofoam in terms of thermal insulation, structural integrity, and cost competitiveness, making them good alternative cold-chain packaging for food and healthcare industries.
As a consumer, apart from recycling, we can also help to make changes by bringing our own coffee mugs, and choose environmentally friendly packaging materials while we can.
A Second Chance for Everyone
Speaking of second chance, let’s not just look at it from the environmental point of view. People are getting used to social distancing, work from home, and virtual meetups. But how is everyone coping with such new way of interacting with each other? Do we have enough social support for those who have special mental needs in the post-pandemic era?
At the height of the lockdown in early 2020, many people doubted that life would ever return to normal. Yet psychological research on catastrophic events shows that most people do bounce back. However, for an unfortunate minority of people, life will not return to normal easily. A research paper from UBC last year indicated that some people have already developed a COVID Stress Syndrome, characterised by fear of infection, fear of touching possibliy-contamined surfaces or even hugging people and shaking hands.
Apart from people with special mental needs when getting back to normal social life, let’s not forget some special members of the society who may have to face bigger challenges when they struggle to get back on the right track — the formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth.
From a social responsible point of view, giving these people a second chance can should be the mission of all companies who benefit from the society. After all, we all make mistakes. And an inspiring job can help reduce recidivism, which is a huge social problem especially in the United States with 68% of released state prisoners were arrested within 3 years, and the number jumps to 83% within 8 years.
Therefore, we’re happy to see more and more start-ups in the US offer “2nd chance” programs to people who want to re-establish themselves. Such program also helps to promote inclusion and equality to people of all social statues.
The pandemic has given us a second chance to start over again, let’s make it right this time, with the nature, with our own life, and with everyone else in the society.
The Year Earth Changed
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