It’s no secret that 2020 has not been a good year for people around the world for many reasons, but the same can hardly be said about the environment. For the first time in many years, different countries around the globe witnessed some noticeable changes in the environment. From clear skies to animals wandering empty streets, nature caught a break from pollution and other harmful human-caused activities.
Covid-19 resulted in distress and deaths for a world population since January 2020. Fast spreading global pandemic led many countries to take strict lockdown measures to prevent further spread of it. Many nations imposed some restrictions on travel such as closing borders, pubs and restaurants shut down, even major events have been either postponed or canceled. That being said, without underestimating the detrimental effect of the global pandemic on people’s health around the world, we would also like to shed a light on the environmental effects of it. This is not to justify the negative outcomes of the pandemic, but more of an overview of how the environment could benefit if we were more conscious about our habits.
So, let’s look at how nature had a chance to take a break from human activities around the world:
- Coronavirus lockdown measures have cut global carbon emissions by nearly a fifth, meaning that it's the biggest fall since the second world war.
- Carbon emissions in China fell by 25% between February and March.
- Emissions from aviation showed a dramatic decline, of about 60%, as international flights between many countries were grounded. Emissions from surface transport fell less sharply, by about 36%.
- In Venice, the water is running clear now that the boats have vacated the canals. This is because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom.
- 30% drop in air pollution over the Northeast United States, the lowest level for any March since 2005.
- The sky is much clear in LA. Researchers at UCLA found a 20% improvement in overall air quality in LA since Newsom issued his stay-at-home order on March 19.
- The tallest peak in the world, Mountain Everest became visible from Kathmandu for the first time that many residents can remember on May 10. While the sight would not have been possible just a few months ago, shutting down of transportation and economic as well as industrial activities has greatly improved air quality and brought down air pollution levels.
- More than 70,000 olive ridley sea turtles have seen nesting on an Indian beach that was left deserted by lockdown orders. The coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha is one of the largest mass nesting sites for the sea turtles. The olive ridleys didn’t venture to the coast for their annual nesting last year, according to Business Insider.
- Animals have also had the opportunity to explore emptied businesses. After closing down to the public, The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago allowed its penguins to run freely throughout the exhibits.
Even though since lockdown measures were induced, the world witnessed obvious changes in the environment, scientists believe that these positive changes are temporary and as soon as people are back to their everyday life, the positive effects of lockdown will be forgotten.
So then, what’s the moral of this story?
We can’t stop traveling or commuting, it’s not realistic to imagine this. But the moral of this story is that as we witnessed, nature appreciates systematic measures and continuous effort people make (yes, even unintentionally, to avoid the pandemic). People usually say “I can’t change everything by myself”, but one of the things the pandemic showed us is that if everyone’s responsible for the choices they make, together they can turn the world to a more sustainable, green and eco-friendly place.