We Got the Whole World in Our Hands
It’s no doubt that we’re living through an unprecedented situation due to the coronavirus, COVID-19. The world has quickly shut down, and society is modifying its behavior to curb the spread of the virus.
No matter where you turn, the media is constantly reporting doom and gloom for the foreseeable future. However, through any crisis, there are always some upsides.
With limited human movement and involvement, nature seems to be restoring itself quickly. Many types of pollution have been drastically cut, and animals seem more abundant than ever.
Of course, the small benefits listed here don’t make up for the human cost the pandemic is bringing, but we need to see the silver linings among these uncertain times.
1. Nitrogen Dioxide Pollution Down
Since the start of the lockdown, pollution has been decreasing just about everywhere. Many non-essential industries have shut down, causing a reduction in air pollution.
For example, in Israel, the environmental agency is reporting a 30% reduction in airborne nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This happened only over the course of 4 days of lockdown when compared to no lockdown the few months prior.
Israel isn’t just an outlier either. In all locations where there is a shutdown, air pollution is dropping drastically. The European Space Agency has tracked NO2 emissions using their Sentinel-5P satellite.
The satellite is showing that during China’s lockdown from January to the present day, there is a 30% overall reduction of NO2 over the country. In northern Italy, there’s an even more dramatic 40% reduction of NO2.
This is a massive win for the environment, since NO2 is an enormous polluter that can interact with oxygen and water in the atmosphere to create acid rain. Acid rain is devastating to sensitive ecosystems like lakes and forests.
Not only that, but NO2 is also a nutrient polluter, which damages coastal waters as well as lakes and streams. In fact, nutrient pollution is one of the most widespread and challenging environmental problems we face.
This is because nutrient pollution from NO2 can cause algal blooms (algae) that kill large numbers of fish and other marine life. Algal blooms can also elevate the levels of toxins and bacterial growths in the water, turning clean drinking water into unsafe and polluted water.
2. Venice Cleaner and Clearer Than Ever
Many viral photos have been appearing on Instagram and Twitter, showing crystal clear waters in Venice, Italy. In one of the most heavily traveled corners of the world, it only took a few weeks to clear the waters.
If you have ever been to Venice or seen photos, then you know how murky and unclean the waters are. However, in just a few short days of reduced human impact, the waters are clear as glass. The fish that live in the canals are now visible and are more abundant than before.
There have also been reports that dolphins and swans have returned to the city as well, but sadly those reports are false. The swans that appeared in the canals regularly swim at the reported location and the dolphins are from a different site in Sicily.
3. Animals Exploring Without Fear
Since most people are locked away inside right now, wild animals are free to roam the streets. While not necessarily a sign of recovery, it shows that nature is still among us, and is ready to fill the niche in the absence of humans.
Many deer are roaming about in different parts of the world like in Nara, Japan, and near an airport in Britain. The same thing is happening with wild turkeys and Canadian geese appearing at parks in Oakland, California.
Some experts think that in some places, we might actually see some species disappearing. That’s because some species now rely on humans for food. For example, some monkeys in Thailand are now fighting and spreading out from a lack of tourists, which they usually get food from.
It seems that mostly, the changes to major urban areas are subtle. Coyotes, raccoons, and birds might venture out of their normal ranges, but these animals have always lived in the cities. It’s actually a gentle reminder that we as humans share this planet, and most of the time, it’s not that obvious.
4. CO2 Emissions Cut
In another great success for the Earth and the environment, CO2 emissions are dropping just about everywhere. CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gas emissions that’s partly responsible for climate change.
Kris Karnauskas, a climate scientist from Boulder, Colorado, demonstrated that CO2 levels have risen only slightly this year. Most likely, this is due to the shutdown of many industries.
Experts also speculate that reduced air and ground traffic is having a significant impact as well. Since people are not moving around as much, other than for work or going to stores, that results in less burned resources.
On top of all that, people are more cautious with their supplies. People are going to the market less often and are making what they have last longer, which could also have an effect on the CO2 emissions so far.
A Lasting Change
Through this crisis, we are quickly discovering that the Earth can actually heal itself if we change our behavior slightly. Many experts are predicting that when the pandemic is over and industry restarts, we will lose all of the environmental benefits gained in these months.
That’s why we must take this opportunity to re-think what industries are absolutely necessary, and about what we can do to make real environmental change. Of course, there is nothing good about a pandemic, and the loss of human life is tragic, but we can create some good out of it. Like the mythical Phoenix, we can be reborn from the ashes.
By implementing stricter environmental policies, it will not only benefit the environment and other species, but it will have a significant positive impact on human health overall.