Joel Sartore: For nature, life goes on during pandemic

Joel Sartore: Mother Nature gets a break, and so do we
Joel Sartore: Mother Nature gets a break, and... 02:57

By National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore: 

Not much scares me, but I have to tell you I was blindsided by the dread that's been sweeping the land for months now. The constant anxiety from reading the news, listening to the news, and watching the news has threatened to beat me down.

And then, one day last week, the sun came out.

Unshaven and in my bathrobe at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, I shuffled out to the curb to get my recycle container. On my way back to the house, I saw the most unexpected thing: my hedges were greening up.

Oh, yeah, the world must still be turning.

The evidence was all around me. Our daffodils were just waking up when a robin zipped past, tilting his head, listening for worms just beneath the surface. A cardinal advertised non-stop for a wife, his voice carrying farther than ever. And though I've repeatedly told them not to, the squirrels continued to raid my bird feeders. Dirty dogs!

Don't they know or care that we are deep in the midst of a life-altering, frighten-the-hell-out-of-you pandemic? Aren't they scared?

Nope. Not for a minute! To them, it's not a global catastrophe. Indeed, for nature, life goes on, but now with some of the pressure taken off.

Road kills and air pollution and noise are way down, because so many of our 1.5 billion cars are idle. A friend in Europe told me that, for the first time, she can actually hear the birds singing in her urban neighborhood. Surely the bulldozers have slowed, too, along with clear-cutting, overfishing, mining and all the rest. It took this terrible disease to give Mother Nature a break.

And so, as we struggle, I'd suggest this: Let us think. Surely we don't want to do everything the same way as before. When we emerge, we can be better than we were, both to each other and to the natural world.

This may be hard to fathom right now, but the future of humanity depends not on the behavior of a virus. Instead, it rests within all of us, and what we choose to do after the sun finally comes out again.

So, come on. Be curious. Be creative. Be respectful. Be noble. Be a hero. Use your time well during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Devise your own plan in the quiet of your home, completely undistracted for a change.

And yes, that means turning off the television. (But not until "Sunday Morning" is over, of course!)

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Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: Emanuele Secci.