Who Cares About a Jellyfish in Venice?

Emily Gaines

2nd Year
Temple Carrig, Greystones

Since December of 2019, the world has been fighting the pandemic known as Covid-19. Every day we hear of new cases of the disease, more deaths, longer quarantines issued, and many other negative consequences. What we don’t hear about is how the Covid-19 outbreak may actually benefit us. But who cares about these benefits, however big or small they may be? In this essay, I will be talking about the benefits of Covid-19, and analysing whether or not they are important to everybody.

What is Covid-19? Covid-19 is a disease that affects the lungs and airways and it is caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can affect both humans and animals, and this previously unknown coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China in December of 2019. There are many theories about the origin of the Covid-19 virus such as, did it come from the Wuhan seafood market where wild animals are traded illegally? Or, as scientists think, did it originate from bats? Or was it made in a laboratory where it escaped? The truth is, we don’t actually know. Any of these theories could be correct but there is no solid evidence that favours one over the other. The problem with the Covid-19 virus is that it is very contagious and spreads much more easily than other viruses or diseases which is why it has become a global problem. But is not all bad news, Covid-19 may have actually benefited our world.

One benefit of the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak is that carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere have seen a major decrease between February and April of 2020. This is because of the significant decrease in the use of cars and commercial flights due to lockdowns. The majority of factories in affected countries have closed down. Global emissions from fossil fuels are estimated to fall by about 5% this year, which would mean 2.5 billion tonnes less of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This could be the opportunity that the world needs to get governments and scientists to save our planet.

I am worried that nothing will be done about this drop in emissions and we could just go back to how the world was before this pandemic. We should use this as a chance to concentrate on the environment and work towards a safer and healthier planet for the future. We cannot let our children and grandchildren suffer because of our mistakes.

Imagine you had a grandchild alive in the next 50 years or so. Would they be annoyed about how the world did not sustain the temporary improvement of the environment during the Covid-19 crisis? Would they be the one to ask ‘why is the air polluted?’, ‘why are all the animals dying’, ‘why is it so warm?’, ‘why is the weather so extreme?’, and would you be the one who was willing to take the blame? The ethical dilemma we face is should we care more about our own lives over the lives of our children and grandchildren?

Another benefit of the consequences of Covid-19 is that people are not only thinking about themselves. Quarantining is not only for the safety of ourselves, but for the safety of others, and people all over the world are thinking about those who have been worst hit by the disease and those who do not have sufficient medicine, food, water and other essentials that are needed to survive.

In Monument Valley, USA, the Native American Choctaw tribe of the Navajo Nation were hit terribly by Covid-19. €1.3 million was raised for the Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund on a GoFundMe page. The Irish Times have said that ‘the page has been dominated by Irish surnames, and many donors left comments to say they were giving in remembrance of Native American aid to Ireland during the Great Hunger’. The Choctaw Tribe sent over $170, a huge sum at the time, to the starving Irish citizens suffering during the Great Famine. The Irish donors have been repaying that debt, a debt from over 173 years ago. The money donated will go towards basic essentials for people in those American regions.

In Ireland, we see a large number of people helping each other whether it is shopping for an elder, having a social distance neighbourly chat or setting up a ‘help group’ to help those in need. I never saw these little acts of kindness or caring in my estate before but they seem to be a regular occurrence now. The philosopher Aristotle defined kindness as ‘helpfulness towards some one in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped’. Looking at this quote, we can see that the Native Americans and the Irish donors acted only for the benefit of others and not for themselves. Some of us are only here today because of the kindness of others.

In some ways, the wildlife all around the world is benefiting from the lockdown of countries. It was reported that because of the nationwide lockdown in France, birdsong can be heard for the first time without the din of traffic , in cities such as Paris. In Venice, Italy it has also been reported that the canals are becoming a lot clearer and a jellyfish was even spotted and filmed by biologist Andrew Mangoni.

Although there have been reports of fish, and even dolphins in the canals, they have proven to be fake news. Philosopher, Immanuel Kant said ‘animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as a means to an end. Man is the end’. This means that he thought humans have no obligations to animals, however he also disagreed with the pointless torture of animals and said ‘we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals’, therefore saying that a man, cruel towards animals, is not a good man. I disagree with his first statement in that sometimes we do feel obligated towards animals. Imagine you were drowning. It’s dark, there is no one around and you feel yourself sinking into the inky blackness. But suddenly a dog leaps into the water, grabs you by the collar and pulls you to safety. You later find out that this dog is stray. Do you leave it to die in the wild? Or do you find a family for it? I believe that it would be unethical to leave an animal stranded in the wild, when it has just saved you. I believe that you owe an animal in return if it has done something helpful to you. They are flourishing in the new environment we are living in at the moment, and I think we should use this as an opportunity to change, and help all the other inhabitants of this planet.

The next point I have that may benefit us in the future is that some government healthcare systems were very slow to react to the pandemic. This may seem strange as a benefit but I think that this crisis will be a wake-up call for governments and the reaction to possible future pandemics or health problem will be quicker. The USA was severely criticised for their reaction and response to Covid-19. The US Centre for Disease Control who is currently working on tests and a vaccine, did not have enough test kits and were only testing people who had entered the USA from another country somewhat associated with Covid-19. The USA now has the largest number of cases of Covid-19 in the world. The United Kingdom government was also severely criticised because of the amount of time it took them to get hold of vital medical equipment and test kits. Hopefully this crisis will make healthcare services more aware of the dangers that time and trying to save money can cause and so, I ask the question ‘what is more important: health or wealth?’. Judging from the reactions of governments, celebrities and citizens all over the world who are making massive donations to fight this disease, the answer to them is health. I would rather live in a poor neighbourhood and be healthy, than live in a rich neighbourhood and have a serious sickness. What do you think is more important?

But who really cares about the these benefits? Not everyone does, because not everyone’s experience of Covid-19 is the same. What one person perceives as a benefit may be completely irrelevant to another. Let’s examine two families’ experience of Covid-19. The first, a family of five live a comfortable lifestyle. They live in a large, spacious house, with a nice back garden, and the sea is within two kilometres. The three children are in their early teens and understand what is happening. The parents both have their jobs, and are still receiving full pay and do not have any financial problems. The family are all physically and mentally healthy, no one in their extended family has, or has previously had Covid-19 and everyone is coping well. The family are playing games and socialising with each other, which is strengthening their relationship. The second family, again a family of five, live in a tiny apartment in the city with no space to exercise. The eldest child is suffering from mental problems as a result of the pressure of the leaving certificate. The other two children are only toddlers and are completely unaware of the situation they are in. The parents have both lost their jobs and are struggling to support the family financially. The father’s sister is suffering from Covid-19 and is currently in severe condition in hospital, and the city they are living in is overrun by the disease. This family is really struggling.

Because of these families having two completely different experiences of Covid-19, they do not look at the benefits the same way. This brings the title of my essay into it, ‘Who cares about a jellyfish in Venice?’. The mother in family scenario one is flicking through social media and finds out about a jellyfish that has returned to the canals in Venice. ‘This is brilliant!’, she says ‘We are doing okay and so is the wildlife!’. The mother of the second family hears this news over a phone call. ‘Who cares?’, she says ‘is the life of a jellyfish more important than the lives of a family suffering in quarantine?’. By contrasting two entirely different situations, we can see that the perspective that people have of the effects of Covid-19, can determine whether or not it is a benefit to that specific person or family.

In conclusion, we can see that although there may be some factual benefits of the outbreak of Covid-19, they will not be seen as benefits in everyone’s eyes as we all have had different experiences in life which influence what we determine things to be: a benefit, a problem, or entirely irrelevant. My experience is more like the first family and I am lucky that I can live comfortably in quarantine. Even though there may be some long term benefits from this experience, such as environmental improvement, would anyone actually want to experience this pandemic all over again?


- HSE.ie

- Wired.co.uk

- The guardian.com

- Smithsonianmag.com

- Worldometers.info

- National geographic

- Yonews.org

- Irish times

- Voanews.com

- Csus.edu

- Channel 4

- Time

- Aljazeera.com