COVID-19 has caused fear, uncertainty, anxiety and stress across the entire globe, but there has been at least one positive outcome to the unprecedented madness. The environment is getting a break from humans, allowing for a decline in air pollution and animal species have begun to bounce back.
The Venice canals stretching 26 miles are clearer than they have ever been in the last 60 years due to the decrease in boat traffic. The clear water has been attracting more animals than usual with swans and fish enjoying this break from human activity.
In Southern Italy, dolphins have returned to the port of Cagliari in Sardinia. China and most major cities have seen declines in air pollution and mobs of monkeys and deer are roaming the once full streets of Thailand and Japan.
With people stuck inside, roads are baren leading to less greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, air pollution has plummeted. The Paris Climate Agreement signed by numerous countries with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality between 2040 and 2050 seems more achievable after seeing what just a couple weeks of reduced human activity can do.
Non-essential travel globally has mostly ceased, so tourist cities like Italy are observing environmental benefits based on a lack of participation in popular tourist attractions. For example, riding a gondolier in Italy is on many traveler’s bucket lists which usually leaves the canals packed. However, the virus has halted the romantic boat ride, giving the water a well-deserved break.
Although most of these changes are temporary and Italy’s canals will likely return to their murky state, as well as the lack of wildlife and air pollution increasing once again, COVID-19 has helped illustrate people’s impact on nature.
This virus is, without a doubt, terrible, but it does succeed in showing just how much we as humans affect nature. It’s our activity that kept the animals out of the canals and streets. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humans are the ones that emitted 7,177 million tons of greenhouse gas in 2016 in the U.S. alone.
I think we should take this as a wakeup call to re-address our own carbon footprints. How can you change your normal daily activities to reduce your environmental impact? Drive less, walk more, take public transportation and carpool.
If we want the environmental relief of COVID-19 to last, we need to make changes. Governments need to commit to carbon neutrality and make climate action plans. People need to start believing in climate change and actually addressing it. This virus is something no one expected or was prepared for, so let’s try to learn from it and cause positive, authentic climate change.