There’s no question that the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every person on the planet.
Hardest hit is likely the travel industry and the small businesses worldwide that depend on tourism.
But, as they say, there is a silver lining in every difficult situation, and there just may be some unintended consequences due to the pandemic that we can all benefit from.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “What could possibly be good about people losing their lives and fortunes, or citizens being isolated in government-mandated lockdowns… facing uncertainty and fear?”
Yes, the situation looks dire – in the short-term. But any therapist will tell you that we all need to look toward the future in a positive light during times such as these.
Otherwise, we’re all likely to lose our minds.
And that’s exactly what some residents are doing in one of the countries experiencing the worst impact of the virus – they’re fending off the decline in their sanity by focusing on some promising new developments.
Earth takes a breath…
Certainly none of us are enjoying being told when and where we can and can’t go, having our lifestyles and routines disrupted, or being trapped in the house with nothing to do but use up our hordes of toilet paper.
But, in a way, many of us are enjoying a chance to slow down, be at home with our children, to actually jump off the hamster wheel of life that never slows down.
And this forced isolation, this social distancing, is giving the planet itself time to breathe.
Italy has experienced one of the greatest impacts of the virus with thousands of deaths. The country is on lockdown as residents are ordered to stay home but for essential trips to pick up food and supplies.
Venice, one of Italy’s most-visited cities has seen a complete stop to its normally bustling tourist industry.
Between the ban on cruise ships and traditional activities like gondola rides and visits to historical sites, local businesses that cater to tourists have shut their doors.
The city of canals is seeing an unprecedented lack of water traffic, and while it’s certain to be a devastating blow to the local economy, it has brought about a miraculous rebirth.
Nature taking back the city…
One local hotel owner near St. Mark’s Square says he saw something recently for the first time in his life – the sandy bed of the canal through still, clear water.
Fish have returned by the dozens, crabs are prevalent, and ducks and other waterfowl glide peacefully, undisturbed by boat traffic.
They have started to build nests along the canals, no longer in fear of being trampled by throngs of tourists or having their young caught in the wake of a motorboat.
Water plants are growing, releasing precious oxygen and providing safety for spawning fish and other aquatic animals.
The city is quiet – for the first time in as long as anyone can remember.
No Grande Navi (No More Cruise Ships)
While tourism in Venice has come to a screeching halt during this global crisis, businesses are painfully aware that their livelihoods are at stake.
But not long ago, these very business owners were part of a campaign to decrease tourism to the area, particularly from cruise ships.
While nearly everyone in the city depends on tourists for their survival, they’ve also long known that such overwhelming numbers of visitors were having an adverse effect on their centuries-old priceless landmarks and the health of their beloved canals.
Many have been petitioning the government to put limitations on over-tourism in order to make it more sustainable.
Fishermen, vineyard owners, and produce vendors have shared their concerns for years. Sooner or later, their city would not be able to keep up.
It’s a bit of a catch 22. Residents are worried about keeping their businesses afloat, but for the first time in decades, they’re taking in the beauty of their city unhindered by tourists…
…numbers that were reaching nearly 20 million a year.
But they’re also hopeful.
Their historic city is not being destroyed by a natural disaster with long-term consequences, but by a foe that will eventually leave them to get back to normal.
Tourists will come back, but they wonder if this will teach everyone that the city cannot return to the status-quo and meet such overwhelming demands.
Locals remember swimming among the fish in the canals before the tourist boom became unsustainable – and it’s giving them some food for thought.
And maybe this global crisis will give us all a little time to think, to slow down, to re-evaluate – to bring us closer together and stronger than ever.
This year, springtime in Venice will be a serene one as locals will finally be able to hear the calls of the cormorants and hear the ripple of the current – not the buzz of hundreds of boat motors.
They want everything to return to normal – just maybe not quite as normal as before the devastating coronavirus forced everyone to stop and take a breath.