Every April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, a holiday dedicated to environmental protection and awareness. This Earth Day is especially significant on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen what just a short pause in human activity can do for the planet. Here are just some of the positive impacts this pandemic has had on the environment according to the Evening Standard:
Cleaner air has resulted in greater visibility around the world as well as better air quality. Shutting down pollution-causing factories even temporarily has had an enormous impact on the air that we breathe. Less time spent in vehicles has also contributed to lower pollution levels as fewer fossil fuels are being burned.
Harmful particle matter and nitrogen dioxide levels have also been reportedly reduced around several European cities. Carbon emissions have fallen around 25 percent in China leading to clearer air.
Clearer and cleaner water is present almost everywhere but is especially notable in tourist locations like Venice on account of the lack of visitors and less sediment from boats and activities. In addiction, natural lakes and streams are seeing a return of native wildlife previously not present.
Wildlife is returning to areas frequently visited by humans and repopulating areas. Plant life is also thriving on account of the lack of human activity.
Despite all these positive changes, it’s important to maintain a clear perspective on the pandemic. We should not be happy about a virus that’s killing a record number of people and putting the economy at a standstill, but we can learn from it. If just a month of human inactivity can have such an amazing impact on our planet, think of what a longer period of time could do. Maybe it’s time to stop the overproduction of goods and services. Maybe it’s time to create a new economy, one that values the livelihood of not just us, but our home and the plants and animals we share it with. Maybe it’s time to put a stop to the endless cycle of producing as much as possible in as short a time as possible and then cramming these goods and services down our throats. It is possible, but it’s going to require a lot of changes.
The UN warns that viewing these positive changes as a silver lining will do little to ensure the environment continues to thrive after the lock downs. Instead, we must change our perspective, learn from these changes, and call for “a profound, systemic shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet.” In this article, Inger Andersen, the head of the Environment Programme discusses how imperative it is that we start respecting nature, stop encroaching on the natural habits of wildlife, and build a better economy that protects both the environment and society.
There’s no going back to “normal” because normal is what made this crisis as bad as it is. I, for one, am ready to embrace change. How about you?