There is a lot of fear and panic, perhaps rightly, about COVID-19. But I would like to draw your attention to the bright side of the coronavirus.
Firstly, I am sure that we all know the famous Arabic proverb: “Maybe a harmful thing is beneficial.” This proverb is usually uses when a bad circumstance bothers a person, a group or a town. But we should not be alarmed by Allah’s mercy. God has great wisdom in every matter, even if its appearance is bad.
So, if you take a closer look, one can clearly realise that the coronavirus has helped us (humanity) in many ways. But how?
On the environmental side, the benefits are many and great. Limiting travel gives a break to the environment, sky, air, our lungs, etc. Parts of China managed to see a blue sky for the first time in years, with factories closing there
On the social side, the virus gave us an opportunity to reconnect with family, as we spend more time at home, especially with schools off, in addition to working from home for many professions.
It is an opportunity for deep meditation. Here, I remember a nice Facebook post I received recently from a colleague stating that he was sitting at home now without electricity and internet. So it became a great opportunity for him to communicate with his wife, and this brought them closer!
On the environmental side, the benefits are many and great. Limiting travel gives a break to the environment, sky, air, our lungs, etc. Parts of China managed to see a blue sky for the first time in years, with factories closing there.
Italy also joined China, where satellite imagery revealed that air pollution in the northern part of the country fell sharply after the virus forced authorities to close factories and ban travel, and several areas, usually packed with cars, turned into ghost cities.
In addition to that, working from home instead of commuting to work reduces crowding and pollution and saves time and income. That is a great help for the fight against climate change; something that the global community had not manage to achieve after many years of climate negotiations.
When facing the coronavirus, there is a chance to take decisions and policies to decarbonise the economy i.e. an economy based on low carbon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.
There are threats to the climate if decisions focus only on boosting economic activity, but there are also opportunities to fund green investment and infrastructure, to boost incomes for the poorest, and also to strengthen health care systems, clean water and sanitation.
Importance of intuitive things
On the health side, the virus reminded us again of the importance of intuitive things that perhaps some of us neglected, despite the fact that it is a mandatory part of Islamic religion — such as personal hygiene, sterilisation, disinfectants and healthy eating.
On the technological front, the changes are enormous, as distance education has become a tangible reality. The technological boom is truly amazing in dealing with the virus, as the Internet of Things (IoT), which is all devices connected to the internet such as smart watches, phones, TVs, and robots (that provide a network of interconnected and advanced systems in data analysis and artificial intelligence) can help in limiting the spread of the virus and help control it.
The data that these devices send periodically is harvested as “big data”, and helps to provide an early warning system to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Also, seeing a mega and smart city, with millions of people exposed to smart devices, as in many Chinese cities now, would be one of the most important human quality leaps.
Last but not least, no doubt that the economic repercussions of the coronavirus on the local and global economy are serious and the various decisions taken by the governments are important to alleviate these effects and overcome the crisis. But the virus, surprisingly, gave us many positives that can be summarised by “it jumped us into the future!”
Yes, where the individual is connected, maybe we need to think of lives in a simpler, less polluting way in order to achieve a smart, healthy and sustainable society. While there is no doubt that we need to defeat COVID-19, there is perhaps a silver lining in the way we will see the world now.
— Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf is an independent environmental researcher