COVID-19 lockdown allows researchers to quantify the effects of human activity on wildlife

Reduced human mobility during the pandemic will reveal critical aspects of our impact on animals, providing important guidance on how best to share space on this crowded planet.

Over the past few months, many countries around the world went into lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19. Brought about by the most tragic circumstances, this period of unusually reduced human mobility — which we suggest be coined ‘anthropause’ (see Box 1) — may provide important insights into human–wildlife interactions in the twenty-first century. Anecdotal observations indicate that many animal species are enjoying the newly afforded peace and quiet, while others, surprisingly, seem to have come under increased pressure.

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‘The time has come for humanity to go through its next evolution’

The novel coronavirus is nature’s way of telling us something, says environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev. He wants an economy not devoted to monetary wealth. Lockdowns around the globe have afforded the natural world an unexpected period of respite. Lower emissions, less pollution: the positive impact on the environment has been well documented. For environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev, a former high-level banker, the coronavirus crisis has made it clearer than ever that a dramatic shift in our relationship with the natural world is urgently needed.

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Pandemic sheds light on importance of biodiversity

The novel coronavirus again shows that deadly illnesses can pass between species. Environmentalists hope that politicians will take urgent action to protect biodiversity and deal with the effects of climate change.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the outbreak of infectious diseases is connected to the destruction of forests and other ecosystems,” Thies said. “Apart from the other more traditional reasons for protecting the environment, restoring biodiversity and the forests, there is also that of protecting health and preventing outbreaks of dangerous diseases.”

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Pandemic linked to destruction of wildlife and world’s ecosystems

 

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Stopping Deforestation Can Prevent Pandemics

Destroying habitats makes viruses and other pathogens more likely to infect humans.

SARS, Ebola and now SARS-CoV-2: all three of these highly infectious viruses have caused global panic since 2002—and all three of them jumped to humans from wild animals that live in dense tropical forests.

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Read also   Coronavirus pandemic linked to destruction of wildlife and world’s ecosystems

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The Role of Social Relational Emotions for Human-Nature Connectedness

Little is known about the psychological processes through which people connect to nature. From social psychology, we know that emotions play an essential role when connecting to others. In this article, we argue that social connectedness and connectedness to nature are underpinned by the same emotions. More specifically, we propose that social-relational emotions are crucial to understanding the process through which humans connect to nature. Besides other emotions, kama muta (Sanskrit: being moved by love) might play a particularly crucial role when connecting to nature. Future research should consider the role of social-relational emotions in human-nature relationships.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”

– John Muir

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Posted in Nature, Social Relations | Tagged ,

Cognitive Restoration in Children Following Exposure to Nature

Exposure to nature improves cognitive performance through a process of cognitive restoration. However, few studies have explored the effect in children, and no studies have explored how eye movements “in the wild” with mobile eye tracking technology contribute to the restoration process. Our results demonstrated that just a 30-min walk in a natural environment was sufficient to produce a faster and more stable pattern of responding to the Attention Network Task, compared with an urban environment. Exposure to the natural environment did not improve executive (directed) attention performance. This pattern of results supports suggestions that children and adults experience unique cognitive benefits from nature. Further, we provide the first evidence of a link between cognitive restoration and the allocation of eye gaze. Participants wearing a mobile eye-tracker exhibited higher fixation rates while walking in the natural environment compared to the urban environment. The data go some way in uncovering the mechanisms sub-serving the restoration effect in children and elaborate on how nature may counteract the effects of mental fatigue.

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Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health

This review provides time-dose and activity-type evidence for programs looking to use time in nature as a preventative measure for stress and mental health strain and also demonstrates opportunities in six specific foci for more research in this area.

College and university students exhibit high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. While counseling, medications and, in more severe cases, hospitalization is all appropriate treatments for such conditions, an increasing body of evidence has demonstrated that spending time in nature can provide tangible benefits for mental health and well-being. The aim of this study was to define a “dose” of time in nature that could be prescribed to college-age students, as a preventative and supportive mental health and well-being intervention. The specific objectives of this scoping review were thus: to define the minimum amount of time in nature that results in positive impact on mental health and well-being for college-aged students; to describe the types of engagement with nature that elicited the impact, and to describe and explore the most commonly used measure of effect pre- and post-time in nature.

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Vitamin N: the power of nature to help us through difficult times

Everything has changed. Coronavirus has affected our lives in ways that none of us could ever have imagined. Millions of us are now working remotely until further notice. We are rightly being told to stay home. This new world of lockdown can make it very difficult to experience nature: it’s either too far away or we may not be able to, or want to, go outside. None of us know when life in lockdown will end but, until then, nature can help us get through these difficult and dark times.

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What is COVID-19 teaching us about solving the climate crisis?

COVID-19 has rapidly changed the world we live in, as governments rightly prioritize our safety and wellbeing and ask us all to stay home. One of the upshots, for those of us lucky enough to be well, is that we now have plenty of time to reflect. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent time in lockdown thinking about what the new, but hopefully temporary, world order means for the climate and environmental crisis.

I’ve been noticing, in particular, many analogies between the two crises. Here are three of the biggest:

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Coronavirus and climate change: A tale of two crises

Coronavirus has cut emissions faster than years of climate negotiations. Does the outbreak reveal what life might be like if we were to act seriously on climate change? Or what it might be like if we don’t?

China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluter, has no plans to cut its emissions anytime soon. Under its Paris Agreement pledges, Beijing has promised to hit peak emissions by 2030. So for the next decade, they’re only going to go up.

Yet suddenly, this colossal, coal-powered economy has slashed emissions by 25%, according to numbers crunched by Lauri Myllyvirta at the University of Helsinki’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. Not because of the climate crisis, but the COVID-19 public health emergency.

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