Ponder in pandemic

Flights, cancelled. Non-essential items factories, closed. Traffic, suspended. Tourists at beaches and national parks, locked indoors. There has been a lot of buzz about how the planet heals itself, with some bogus news and some authentic. Sea turtles returning to shores to nest and lions claiming roads to nap in, freely, like their kind once did before humans pushed back jungles with deforestation. While learning to coexist with other species is something the human population has yet to learn, there has been another damage we have been doing carelessly to serve our pursuit of luxuries: choking Planet Earth with our factories, cars and crafts, in turn, choking our future, quite literally. Does anyone remember Lahore shutting down schools due to smog? Smog has been our reality for a while now and shutting down schools for a couple of days is not a solution. We need change, in our lifestyles as citizens as well as at policy level. With the lockdown imposed around the world, many countries have reported a change in the air quality – the true impact from this temporary suspension of activities is yet to be studied but there is no denying that the planet has self-healing qualities.

In Milan, authorities have taken the opportunity provided by empty streets to design a road scheme to dedicate more space for pedestrians and cyclists and this will be experimented in the summer months. Both of these commuting modes are beneficial for human and planet health, reducing dependence on vehicles that produce nitrous oxide. In Pakistan, especially Karachi and its’ clogged veins with bumper to bumper traffic and poor air quality, could benefit from a culture of cycling and walking, something the authorities and city planners need to consider as fundamental in designing schemes for the urban oasis.