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Earthday 2020

By JULES VIVAS

NEW HORIZON With fewer people and vehicles outside, the City of Manila reveals its clear cerulean sky and verdant green foliage (Photo by Noel Pabalate)

NEW HORIZON With fewer people and vehicles outside, the City of Manila reveals its clear cerulean sky and verdant green foliage (Photo by Noel Pabalate)

All mans toil upon the planet was just so much foam. He domesticated the serviceable animals, destroyed the hostile ones, and cleared the land of its wild vegetation. And then he passed, and the flood of primordial life rolled back again, sweeping his handiwork away—the weeds and the forest inundated his fields, the beasts of prey swept over his flocks, and now there are wolves on the Cliff House beach. —Jack London, The Scarlet Plague, 1912

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING What once were bustling cities now appear to be ghost towns. Not a single soul is in sight on the polished gray of Manhattan (Photo by Spencer Platt)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING What once were bustling cities now appear to be ghost towns. Not a single soul is in sight on the polished gray of Manhattan (Photo by Spencer Platt)

The streets are silent. No cars, no humans. Without the fumes of traffic, the pavements smell of petrichor, sweet and musty, like after a storm. Great cities blanketed by fog are blurred like old paintings. Each could be a masterpiece, a work of art made by expert hands.

CONCRETE JUNGLE Humanity’s kingdom without the animals that once populated it—Downtown L.A. in lockdown (Photo by Apu Gomes)

CONCRETE JUNGLE Humanity’s kingdom without the animals that once populated it—Downtown L.A. in lockdown (Photo by Apu Gomes)

Only a month ago, these city streets were rivers overflowing with people 24 hours a day, seven days a week—the kind of place where you would hold your wallet tight, and your kids even tighter. We had everything but our freedom, and we were perfectly fine. We had toys, gadgets, labor-saving devices, even designer clothes and coffee. We even had the media that told us all we needed to know.

FUTURE HABITATIONS In central Milan, the Piazza del Duomo is left deserted to the consternation of the pigeons that must be wondering where the tourists with the corn kernels are (Photo by Piero Cruciatti)

FUTURE HABITATIONS In central Milan, the Piazza del Duomo is left deserted to the consternation of the pigeons that must be wondering where the tourists with the corn kernels are (Photo by Piero Cruciatti)

Life seemed easy, that is until Mother Nature sent us to our rooms, like the spoiled children we had been. The earth has suffered so much of our ecocidal proclivities, and so it said, “Enough!” All it took to cut us down to size was an opportunistic virus. In the blink of an eye, we were back at the mercy of nature. 

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY The thousand glittering lights of Paris remains lit, but there is nothing to light but the shadows of a world in hiding (Photo from AFP)

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY The thousand glittering lights of Paris remains lit, but there is nothing to light but the shadows of a world in hiding (Photo from AFP)

Our insulation from natural hazards has proved to be a bubble. Now it has burst and, suddenly, our scientific know-how, our technological advancements, our sophisticated systems, our modern machineries, our cultural breakthroughs, our financial institutions are way less important to our survival than the fertile soil, the fruit-bearing trees, and clean water.

LIFE FINDS A WAY While humanity combats the threat of a virus, life goes on. Spring has sprung and the earth laughs in flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki prefecture (Photo by Charly Triballeau)

LIFE FINDS A WAY While humanity combats the threat of a virus, life goes on. Spring has sprung and the earth laughs in flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki prefecture (Photo by Charly Triballeau)

The world, of course, is only healing itself, getting rid of the only thing that has corrupted it—us. Now, birds in Wuhan are chirping again, a puma wanders into the city center of Santiago in Chile during curfew hours, and gazelles are crossing the highways in Dubai. At night, the choruses of birds and insects bring comfort to our lockdown existence.

WILD ABANDON Jackals play in Yarkon Park in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. These animals are taking the paths of the park, not for leisure, but with greater confidence in search of food (Photo by Jack Guez)

WILD ABANDON Jackals play in Yarkon Park in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. These animals are taking the paths of the park, not for leisure, but with greater confidence in search of food (Photo by Jack Guez)

But there’s more: The massive man-made hole in the ozone layer is said to have begun closing. A natural effect of cars having stopped burning fuel, of airplanes being grounded, of steel plants being shut, factories closed, and refineries slowing down all over the world.

MY WORLD IS BLUE In Halle Belgium, near the Belgian city hall, blue bell wildflowers flourish (Photo by John Thys)

MY WORLD IS BLUE In Halle Belgium, near the Belgian city hall, blue bell wildflowers flourish (Photo by John Thys)

If this is the end, what of mans’ legacy? For a while, the cities will stay the same: a collection of buildings, of roads laid like a carpet for a queen who will never come, of hanging banners with slogans only to be read by the wind laden with the dust of our lost memories. The air flows unhindered, passing through the streets faster than a freight train, all the while howling. Structures stand in defiance as the people who built them retreat.

THE IRON TOWER The sun sets on the Eiffel Tower that stands waiting to be reclaimed by either man or nature (Photo by Bertrand Guay)

THE IRON TOWER The sun sets on the Eiffel Tower that stands waiting to be reclaimed by either man or nature (Photo by Bertrand Guay)

There is only steel and concrete, which are not as timeless as the mountains that ring the city but will be able to outlast the society that has created them for centuries. With enough time, however, even the smooth gray of asphalt, the sheen of glass, the polish of metal will yield to a jungle of green and this civilization will give way to earth’s re-blooming.

[C]AGE OF HUMANITY The birds roam free, nature thrives, while man is a prisoner of circumstance (Photo by Joaquin Sarmiento)

[C]AGE OF HUMANITY The birds roam free, nature thrives, while man is a prisoner of circumstance (Photo by Joaquin Sarmiento)

Victory is on nature’s side in this battle, but will nature win this war against us? When the pandemic is over and our reign over earth’s resources is renewed, which of the lessons we claim to have learned are we going to keep in mind? Or are we going to start chasing our human-centric dreams again until the planet is reduced to a lump of rock “lifelessly” circling the sun until the day it too ceases to exist?

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/04/22/earthday-2020/)

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