The silver lining to 2020 has been the positive environmental impact of COVID-19. Whenever you hear the words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, they stir up a range of deep-seated emotions. There are very few positive connotations associated with those two words. If we’re honest, this pandemic has completely changed our lives as we know it, and not for the best in most cases.
However, there have been some really positive things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the foremost being the effects on the environment. With multiple countries around the world in simultaneous lockdown, restrictions on travel, and the grounding of all airlines, the earth has had a chance to breathe.
If we turn towards our own lives and look at how our habits have changed, we can get an idea of how this has panned out on a larger scale.
We, as a family, have traveled to the shops and back, and at most to a friend’s house a bit further afield. All destinations have been within a small radius of our house, and we have hardly used petrol during this time. Our habits have been simple: reading, writing, working out at home, home-schooling, working from home, watching TV. We have stayed home. We have laid low. We have used what we needed and reduced our need for anything of excess.
We know that so many other people have followed similar patterns. We have embraced simplicity and finally understood how to survive with only what we need.
The Air We Breathe Is Cleaner Now
According to Science Direct, a number of studies have been conducted to measure the positive impact that COVID-19 has had on the environment. To start with, the air is far less polluted than it used to be due to the fact that no one is travelling around. Using our family as an example, most people have heeded warnings and stayed home.
This has resulted in air with 50% less pollution in cities like New York. In China, at the beginning of 2020, coal use fell by 40% in comparison to the closing months of 2019. This was due to factories, industrial facilities, and power plants closing down during their lockdown. China also reported an 11,4% increase in days where the air quality was considered good. Stars became visible in London skies on clear nights.
Carbon emissions have also dropped due to the halt in travel. Travelling usually accounts for 23% of the global carbon emissions, but these levels have dropped significantly since COVID-19 hit.
Satellite imagery has shown substantial decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution across Europe. NO2 is usually emitted by burning fossil fuels at high temperatures, however, all of this activity came to a standstill during lockdown. Some European cities, such as Madrid, Milan, and Rome, have shown up to a 45% reduction in air pollution since 2019.
Oceans Are Thriving
The lack of tourism has given beautiful beaches a much-needed break. Garbage and pollution left from day visitors is no longer seeping into the ocean. Beaches, rock pools, and reefs are being left untouched, which is giving delicate eco-systems a chance to come to life again.
Slow-down in coastal construction is reducing waste. There is no waste being produced from coastal hotels, so it’s not being pumped into oceans. Boats, jet-skis, and other water crafts are not dribbling oil or petrol into the sea water. Overall, the oceans and beaches have probably had a great time without any human intervention.
Animals Are Roaming Free
As everyone hides away at home, animals in wild areas have started creeping out into residential zones due to increased peace and quiet. Without any major threats standing between them and their daily investigations, there have been multiple sightings around the world of curious creatures venturing into previously human-occupied areas.
I’ve seen penguins walking down the streets of Cape Town. Lions lounging on the greens of golf courses in Kruger National Park. Wild boar walking across streets in Israel. Squirrels popping into houses, and foxes lounging in sunny gardens in London. It’s so beautiful to see, and I wish we could enjoy a more harmonious existence with our animal friends going forward.
Using The Positive Environmental Impact Of COVID-19 As A Lesson
No doubt, when humans get back to our loud and possibly filthy ways, a lot of these small joys will be reversed. Of course, with awareness, we can do so much to ensure that we continue to live in a more sustainable and environmentally agreeable way. A few things we could all do:
- Drive less, travel less, be aware of your carbon footprint
- Use less energy in your household
- Recycle everything you possibly can to reduce your waste
- Buy products with less packaging
- Avoid plastic wherever possible
- Pick up after yourself
- Always be aware of where your waste is going
If anything, COVID-19, and the positive environmental impact that has come with it, has given us a taste of what’s possible. We can see how easily the effects of pollution and destructive emissions can be reversed. It doesn’t seem as hopeless as it once did, and it offers an opportunity for us to at least try and improve the state of our environment.
So what will you do with that information?
Resources: https://www.sciencedirect.com/; https://www.bbc.com/; https://climate.copernicus.eu/; https://www.euronews.com/; https://www.undp.org/
Photos from Pixabay: by jplenio–7645255; André Cook; Simon Matzinger; Tyler Lastovich; Francesco Ungaro; Belle Co