The Natural Respirator

Sam Patterson, Northern Ireland (13)

The world has fallen ill of isolation and the frenetic pace of life slows with our constant revolutions from update to update, rush to rush and panic to panic. Suddenly, so many of us find ourselves adrift, aimlessly through time, whilst our neighbour bears the combined weight of suspense and anxiety. Hopefully, as a result of our abrupt confinement, we will begin to appreciate what is too often taken for granted; the luxuries of a Natural World that we are a part of and is a part of us.

For many lovers of nature, time and appreciation have expanded substantially since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic. The gaps deserted by social interaction and other such normalities overflow with the joys of sun and fresh air.  If only we give ourselves to nature, it soon gives back in immense proportions. Even within the confines of garden walls, an occasional bumble bee can lift spirits with its meandering hum.

These joys cannot be lost, and we can only hope that others too will spend valuable time in developing their relationship with the outdoors. Perhaps, when supplied with a fresh perspective, society will prove to be considerate in its behaviour.

One pressing concern in the past year has been plastic pollution. Every twelve months, 13 Billion metric tonnes of plastic waste (13,000,000,000kg) are dumped into the ocean(, and in the English Channel, over 1/3 (36.5%) of fish have ingested plastic (marine pollution bulletin, 2013). Bear in mind that these are only the known statistics, and that much will go unnoticed by even the most conservation focussed eye.  All around the world, land dwelling creatures are plagued, choked and poisoned by plastic. Plastic, that intoxicates their soil and clogs their throats and stomachs. Even in the past few days, the discarded gloves of cyclist, walker and runner alike have begun to litter the rural pathways of Belfast. Now blooming wildflowers are overshadowed by these polythene invaders. How strange is this? An item intended as a health precaution contributing to the ultimate destruction of all life, including ours. This life may be unique to Earth, and so through its destruction we could end all life in the Universe.

Many people in Northern Ireland have been dealt huge blows as a result of COVID 19. I have had the privilege to speak with one such lady, who has lost her father. Rachael Singleton says, “My father passed just last week, after contracting the virus. He was a man who adored wildlife, and my fondest memories of him are of gentle walks along a country lane in Eglish”. At this point Ms Singleton pauses in thought, as though considering something of great importance. Finally she relates, “He is gone, and in his death I could not be with him (because of the nature of the disease) but in nature I can feel close to him. The most comfort that I feel is in the hills near my house. I can reconnect with him through nature. Nature, for me, is solace.”

Perhaps…perhaps, due to the present situation, we will make time for nature, and in doing so accept that Earth is a fragile structure, constructed of many diverse yet fast disappearing species, habitats and their relationships. In this case society will become aware of the tense social and political situations leading to plastic pollution. The Earth is not ours to exploit, and to end the utter obliteration of the existence within which we dwell, we need to realise that it is irreplaceable, beauteous and to be nurtured beyond all other things. Only as one unified force can we save Earth from ourselves.

All Photography: Sam Patterson

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