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The Year Earth Changed, humans lived harmoniously with nature

Last year, filmmakers witnessed an astonishing transformation in nature when human activities slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brilliantly illustrated documentary “The Year Earth Changed” provides us with rare proof that humans and wildlife can coexist in harmony. 

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the film highlights nature’s extraordinary response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sir Attenborough says that “the moment we paused, Earth was able to breathe again.”

After COVID-19 lockdowns were issued, the lack of human disruption transformed the natural world with “clearer air, cleaner waters, and animals starting to flourish in ways we haven’t seen for decades.”

Within days of lockdown, Los Angeles experienced its best air quality for 40 years, while toxic gases in China were reduced by half. 

After just 12 days, air pollution in Jalandhar, India was so greatly reduced that people suddenly had a view of the Himalayan mountains for the first time in decades. The mountains had been completely hidden by thick smog for more than 30 years. 

In April 2020, there were 140 million fewer international tourists compared to the previous year. Loggerhead sea turtles in Juno Beach, Florida greatly benefited from a break in tourism. 

For the first time, scientists were able to measure the scale of human disturbance on the endangered turtles. They found that, in the absence of humans, there was a dramatic improvement in the breeding success of the loggerheads. 

The effects of COVID-19 restrictions could be seen in even the most remote places. Penguins had a record breaking mating season, and no rhinos were killed for their horns for the first time since 1999.

There have been striking changes beneath the Earth’s surface too, says Sir Attenborough. “With the vibrations from travel and industry halved, it has been the quietest period underground in recorded history.” 

“But the impact of this lockdown will not last forever. What inspiration can we take from this moment to find ways to better coexist with nature?”

“The Year Earth Changed” was produced by BBC Studios Natural History Unit. The documentary made its debut on Apple TV+ on April 16th, just ahead of Earth Day 2021.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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