On this Earth Day we give thanks for the planet, our eternal home, the mother of us all.

And we note with some interest that the pandemic, for all its destructive effect on society, has produced a pause in commerce and consumption that has led to a cleaner environment.

According to an April 22 report from ABC News, “[S]atellite data from NASA showed a 30% drop in air pollutants in the northeastern section of the U.S. during March.” The reduction is due, of course, to “fewer cars on the road and exhaust from factories due to the shelter-in-place orders issued by world governments. ‘We’re seeing in some places the best air quality in decades,’ Bill Magavern, the policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, told ABC News. ‘It is very good for our lung health that air pollution is down during this time of crisis.’”

How ironic that it would take this kind of health disaster to help restore the health of the earth. And yet, perhaps it is not too much to hope that the sudden reversal of pollution could spur forward-thinking environmental legislation and controls once the restrictions are lifted.

The esteemed British primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall told the AP, “I hope there’s a groundswell of enough millions of people who’ve never before breathed clean air in cities, who’ve never been able to look up at night and see a clear sky with twinkling stars. I hope that they’ll be enough of them to eventually force big business and politicians to … stop carrying on with business as usual.”

Given man’s limitless capacity for folly, that may be too much to expect. But not too much to ask for: clean air, pure water and clear skies.