As we continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one big and unexpected development we can’t deny is a good thing:
The significant reduction in human activity is doing wonders for our environment.
It’s not hard to see why.
The coronavirus pandemic is singlehandedly stopping the world in its tracks. Countries are implementing draconian lockdowns—shutting off businesses, factories, schools, etc in a bid to flatten the curb of infection.
By all accounts, human life has taken a sharp turn. But amazingly, the Earth is getting a chance to heal.
Read ahead for some definitive proof that COVID-19 is becoming Earth’s unlikely ally.
1. NASA satellite images reveal a drastic drop in pollution in China, but something similar is now seen all over the world
When the novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China in early January of 2020, the country responded aggressively, closing off the borders of Hubei province, promptly stopping all non-essential activities just as the Chinese New Year approached.
Major factories and industries closed. And it resulted in cleaner air and reduced output of toxic human emissions.
In fact, just after a month, satellite images show a significant drop in air pollution over China.
Check out the NASA satellite images below:
According to new data by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites, these images show a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic byproduct which usually comes from vehicles, power plants, and factories.
But now that the coronavirus has managed to spread in 200 countries, the change in air quality is seen all over the world. Significant drops in nitrogen dioxide output are also seen all over Europe. In Asia, South Korea, is also experiencing lower NO2 emissions—a country known to have large fleets of coal-fired power plants.
Experts warn, however, that these changes might only be temporary and may not even be enough to permanently curb climate change. But the way the world “wakes up” from this pandemic will define whether or not these changes are here to stay.
Climate scientist and environmental justice activist Sarah Myhre explains:
“If the actions here continue to bail out fossil fuel companies and multinational corporations and banks, and invest in fossil fuel infrastructure, then we are digging a hole deeper into a more violent and dangerous place.
“I think that there’s potential for this pandemic to become a moment of mass awaking of our ability to have compassion for each other.”
2. Venice canals clear up, animals seen wandering freely as tourism halts
Italy is currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and the country continues to struggle as it tries to contain the virus.
In one fell swoop, the Italian government closed off everything—including its multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
But the closure seems to have an almost magical effect on Italy’s most-visited tourist spots.
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Photos and videos uploaded by Venice locals show the famous canals sporting clear waters for the first time in years. The waters are so clear you can see right through the bottom as fish are seen returning to the canals, too.
Meanwhile, dolphins were seen swimming freely along the port of Calgary, one of Italy’s heaviest-trafficked ports.
As bad as #CoronavirusOutbreak is, it's really showing the effect humans have had on the #environment. Wildlife has returned to previously traveled waters, even the water in Venice is now clean and clear. It's giving the world a chance to breathe and repair. pic.twitter.com/pxA01HkRfa
— Peter Moore (@petermikale) March 17, 2020
3. Animals are seen roaming freely in urban cities across the world
Animals are seen wandering about in metropolitan cities across the world. But the consensus as to whether or not it’s a good thing is still debatable.
In one video posted weeks ago, monkeys are seen roaming in a Thailand city plaza. However, the usually tourist-fed monkeys seemed agitated and desperate for food. Something is seen getting thrown into the horde and they break into a brawl.
Posted by Sasaluk Rattanachai on Tuesday, March 10, 2020
A large number of animals across the world are actually sustained in a similar way. In many tourist places, especially in Asia, many animals are fed almost entirely by treats from human hands. And with the global pandemic limiting travel, tourism has trickled down significantly. leaving many of these animals with limited food supply.
A similar occurrence is happening near Japan’s famous Nara Park, home to 1,000-something deers, some of which are trained to bow on command. After the Japanese government implemented travel restrictions, herds of 10 to 15 deers have begun wandering through the city in search of food.
But is it really such a bad thing?
Perhaps not. Most wildlife are known to become more resilient and even flourish when left on their own.
According to urban ecologist Dr. Christopher Schell:
“The best thing we can do for these animals is to leave them alone. Most animals living in urban environments already have flexible diets, so chances are good that a lot of these animals are going to be OK.”
We might all be struggling as we undergo drastic changes in our daily lives during the coronavirus pandemic. But we can’t deny that the environment is benefiting greatly from the lack of human activity.
The reduction in air, land, and sea travel, for example, is causing a great deal less of carbon emissions. Air travel, particularly, contributes to more than 2% of carbon emissions in the world.
This viral outbreak also serves as a lesson that we cannot continue to ravage environmental resources and exploit nature and wildlife at the pace we have been doing. And the subsequent human lockdowns are proof that we can afford to limit our carbon footprint at relatively low costs to our personal comforts and luxuries.
All this is a silver lining we can’t ignore—and a necessary reminder that change is possible if push comes to shove.
What do you think of the changes in the environment brought to us by COVID-19? Share your insights with us in the comments below.