The November/December 2020 issue of Sierra Magazine has a wonderful editorial by editor-in-chief Jason Mark. With his permission I am reprinting the article in its entirety. It reminds me of David Attenborough’s newest documentary and book, Life on Planet Earth. The article by Rachel Nuwer, “Nature is Returning,”* is also along these same lines and worth reading in the magazine. (*See link to her article below editorial or just click below on the title of the essay.) Sierra’s website is: https://www.sierraclub.org/.
Note: I highlighted in bold some of the important elements. (es)
The woods and the mountains and the seashores were packed with people last summer. With the entertainments of movie theaters and malls still shut down or restricting access because of the pandemic, a lot of folks turned to the old-fashioned amusements provided by wild nature. Across the country, parks reported a spike in visitation compared with recent years. Reconnecting to the great outdoors turned out to be the ideal escape for people fearful of staying indoors.
The critters, I imagine, must have noticed the racket—especially after a spring in which it seemed as if Homo sapiens had disappeared. In the first months of the pandemic, as civilization slowed down and went quiet in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, wildlife in some places began a tentative (and brief) recolonization of human-dominated habitats. A mountain lion stalked the empty streets of San Francisco, and javelinas tore through Phoenix. Bears, deer, and bison reclaimed the deserted precincts of the national parks. The reappearance of wild animals offered a poignant illustration of humans’ vexed relationship with wildlife, a reminder that our mere presence and sheer numbers affect other beings’ lives, even though we humans usually ignore such bonds.
In “Nature Is Returning,” wildlife journalist Rachel Nuwer details one more way in which the pandemic has revealed our interconnection with animals: The coronavirus originated in another species. Scientists aren’t yet sure which—maybe it was a bat, or perhaps a pangolin. They largely agree, though, that human activities played a role in allowing the virus to jump the species barrier. When we destroy wildlands to make space for farms and pastures or when we capture and trade wildlife species, we increase the chances of zoonotic** epidemics.
*Rachel Nuwer is an award-winning science journalist who contributes to many magazines. She also authored: Poached Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking. You can read her article on the Internet in Sierra Magazine with this link: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2020-6-november-december/feature/nature-returning-during-covid-coronavirus-pandemic. Excellent article! (es)
**I looked up “zoonotic “in my Oxford University Press Dictionary and learned that “zoontic: is a derivative of “zoonosis,” defined as “a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals. (es)