by Raphaela Barros Prado
For months now, the world has been suffering from COVID-19, and citizens across the globe have been trying to find unique ways to fight the pandemic and adapt to a strange new reality. The planet has also changed since this crisis began, and many of these changes have been for the better.
When the virus started spreading in China, the government quickly enforced a lockdown, closing all non-essential businesses and requiring the entire population to stay home. It was a significant effort to slow the spread of the virus. China has one of the world’s biggest economies, with thousands of factories active almost 24 hours a day to keep its economy running full steam. All of that full-time production causes intense air pollution. Once the lockdown started, the lack of cars in the streets and the shuttered factories resulted in a dramatic improvement in air quality as the carbon dioxide emissions dropped.
A similar thing happened in India, where urban air pollution levels are often among the world’s worst. Before the pandemic, it was not uncommon to see Indian people wearing masks because of the bad air quality. But with the fast spread of the virus, the country also implemented a lockdown, and as a result, the biggest cities saw a significant decrease in air pollution and enjoyed clear blue skies for the first time in years.
With millions of people staying home, fewer people driving in the streets, beaches close to empty, and tourism at a standstill, nature has started to revert to a healthier state. In Venice, with tourists gone and only residents using boats, the water in the canals has changed color, becoming more clear and less polluted.
An article published by Nature notes that with the significant changes we have seen in the environment, there is a chance to see a return to abundance in the oceans. If we put in the effort we have a chance to counter the damage done from pollution and overfishing by 2050.
As we contemplate newly clear skies, cleaner water, and more abundant wildlife, and as we appreciate being able to live more peacefully, with less traffic and less pollution, we must realize that this may only be a temporary respite,. Once countries start reopening, factories resume production, and people begin traveling again, the environmental benefits caused by the lockdown will decrease or disappear unless we take serious action. Although all the changes we have seen maybe short-lived, we have a unique opportunity to recommit ourselves to doing what we can for the planet’s future.