April 22, 2020
Today is Earth Day, a day when we celebrate this lovely planet we live on. This year is different from any other Earth Day we’ve ever had, occurring as it does in the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
The virus is having damaging effects on health, economies and social cohesion. It’s necessitated a raft of changes to our way of life, some of which have resulted in unforeseen outcomes. One of these has been the impact on the environment. The need for social distancing and lockdowns implemented in countries around the globe has forced us to experience a greener, cleaner life.
Last month, The European Space Agency released a video that shows air pollution diminishing over China as the country went into COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, then returning as business resumed.
It’s estimated that China’s two-month reduction in air pollution due to the regional lockdowns in January and February has decreased the number of premature deaths and likely saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of five and 73,000 adults over the age of 70. CO2 emissions were down by at least 25 per cent as of 1 March because of the measures to contain the coronavirus. What’s more, as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, this reduction is having an impact for the entire global population.
In another part of the world – Italy - the waterways are seeing a great decrease in boat traffic and as a result, normally murky waters have become clear. Amazingly, this has resulted in healthier marine life activity as dolphins were observed in Sardinia.
While these examples show us it is possible for our environment to recover if we commit to changed behaviours, the question becomes, will environmental improvements be temporary? That comes down to whether we are able to reduce the impact our daily lives have on our natural environment in a more sustainable way.
Possibly, when we come out of the hardships we are facing as a global community, we can reflect on some of the changes we’ve experienced during this time. Small changes may be something to maintain into the future. Whether that be spending more quality time with our children, taking our dogs on more walks, reaching out to neighbours who may be in need, or reducing our negative impact on the environment. Change can only happen if we want it to and if we work together on solutions.