According to reports from seismological institutions around the world the fall-off of human activity around the Earth because of the COVID-19 lockdown resulted in a reduction of around 50 per cent in the seismic noise level in the period between March and May this year.

The less ‘noisy’ planet, particularly in big population areas, is because humans are less busy travelling on jets, trains, cars and trucks, working, digging, building, manufacturing and socialising.

The drop off in seismic noise – that is shockwaves from vibrations travelling through the earth, has been unprecedented say the scientists.

The resulting ‘anthropause’ has meant that seismologists have been better able to measure small natural geological movements which otherwise would have been drowned out by the racket we humans have been making in recent years.

It seems that even tourists visiting popular spots and students attending schools and colleges contribute significantly to the thumping and bumping of the earth in normal times.

Other scientists have been observing other parts of the natural world during the current ‘quietness’. Changes have been noticed in the atmosphere, in biological systems, and human behaviour and state of mind.

For some people, anxiety and stress levels have risen as individual and family circumstances have been affected by the new limitations on social interactions and the pressures of uncompromising lockdowns.

On the other hand some people have found ways to adapt to new circumstances.

The dogged flowering of creative responses from the art and entertainment industries show how new
outlets are being found for self-expression.

Learning to bake perfect sourdough bread apparently now serves as some sort of lockdown meme which has spread widely through the community.

Working from home, too, may persist to a large degree in the cities and elsewhere when ‘normalcy’ returns.

This brings to mind the alleged Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times!’

This expression may – or may not – have historical validity but there is ample evidence arising from the social and economic impacts on our world of the pandemic that history will apply other labels to this period of human experience.

Some of the appellations given to the current pandemic may well be grim, other labels will vary from place to place depending on the severity and cost in lives and treasure.

Certainly, in terms of human goals and aspirations there may be a case of applying the phase ‘The Great Pause’ – or perhaps, more wryly, ‘The Curious Times’ – to the current period but there is already evidence, as we have seen above, that recent months have generated considerable amounts of reflection, learning, and readjustment.

The scale and scope of life-changing events and approaches to life on all sorts of levels continues to be reported on a daily basis as a mindless, frightening virus seeks to expand ever-expanding circles of domination over ineffective human cellular defences.

Pestilence is not new in human societies.

Ancient cultures were regularly victim to deadly diseases and plagues while the medieval world endured nightmare periods of pestilence.

We all earnestly hope that in the 21st century science and commonsense will prevail and the COVID-19 menace will eventually be constrained and perhaps defeated.

The ‘Big Pause’, however, may have its uses in producing a wiser, better informed, tolerant and compassionate human race which will be somehow better equipped to live in harmony with our planet – and each other.

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