Letter to the Editor: Silver Linings 

To the Editor: 

If there are silver linings to the COVID19 cessation of normal activity, surely one is the rapid and dramatic reduction in air pollution all over the world. 
Delhi is usually enveloped in a hazardous brown pall. Now its azure blue skies and unlimited visibility causes one resident to marvel that it’s positively “Alpine.” 

Los Angeles looks hyper-realistic without its usual smog.  

Satellite images show the course of the shutdown in New York and China reflected in radically diminished particulate levels in the atmosphere.  

We know what the difference is, don’t we?  

It’s the steep reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. 

Insurance companies are providing us premium rebates to reflect the drastic reduction in miles driven and claims filed. 
Heavy industry has been significantly slowed.  

Airplanes are not overhead.  

The cruise ship industry is dead in the water.  

Of course, this has come at an enormous cost. For that reason alone, the pause is not sustainable.
But neither is a return to business as usual.  

We might learn from enduring a disease that ravages the lungs that we must fundamentally change the way we behave to prevent chronic and more consequential damage to the planet’s lungs. 

On a national level, we should reject political leaders who, during this tragedy, have gutted fuel efficiency and clean air standards. We should elect political leaders and expect business leaders to expeditiously transition us to a robust and prosperous economy decoupled from fossil fuels.  

In Maine, we should take a look at how we have long encouraged relentless growth in tourism and recreation that is inextricably tied to masses of individuals polluting their way into, around and out of the state. Deep down we must realize this is unsustainable, and it’s making our communities less livable. More and more cruise ships, hotels, parking lots, Airbnb’s and tourist shops are not always better, and we know it.  

Let’s use this time to reflect on a related matter. We’ve got the idea that the world is our oyster and we are entitled to hop on a plane, a ship or get in our car and go wherever we want as often as we want. Traveling can be a way to find meaning and connection. But far too often it’s now a mass, shallow, entertainment enterprise. We need to ask ourselves what’s the true cost of our frequent trips to Italy, the Galapagos, Disney World, etc. Can we learn to “see the world” without contributing to its destruction? Can we learn to contentedly forbear at times for the greater good? 

When we emerge from our homes, let’s do so with a sober appreciation for what we have lost, what we must do to recover and prevent it from happening again, but also what we have gained and how important it is to not lose that in a heedless return to business as usual.  


Gail Marshall 

Mount Desert, ME 





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