Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has created massive issues with unemployment, supply chains, education, mental health, physical health and the list could go on and on. The news has been largely negative as of late, and it has been quite difficult to find any silver linings. Personally, I feel that this makes staying informed rather stressful.
However, there is one positive twist to this whole pandemic: The environment has experienced immense positive impacts while the world has been on lockdown. Due to less car and air travel, there has been a significant drop in air pollution. Countries including China, Italy, Spain, France, India, the United States and more have all seen clear, visible changes. Seeing these substantial changes proves that humans can and should be inspired to do more to help the environment.
The first environmental impact that grabbed my attention was the clear canal water in Venice, Italy. I saw pictures of the aquatic life in the clear water and was stunned that something so drastic could occur so quickly due to less human intervention. Truthfully, I never knew the canals in Venice were meant to be clear. I had never seen them any different, and it made me wonder what other environmental progress had occurred amidst the pandemic.
Los Angeles is notoriously famous for having one of the worst cases of smog in the United States. As one of the most populated cities in the country, where people rely mostly on cars for transportation, the smog has not budged in decades. However, throughout the stay-at-home order, the usually busy highways have been almost completely barren, making way for truly clear skies that residents cannot help but notice.
World landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Himalayan mountain range in India, were recently seen from miles away for the first time in years. It has been almost three decades since people could see the Himalayan mountains from about 100 miles away, and it can be directly linked to the lack of air pollution. Many citizens were even prompted to share their sights through social media, gaining widespread attention around the world.
Closer to home, North Carolina has also seen environmental developments since quarantine was enforced mid-March. According to NCDOT State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy, road traffic in Raleigh was recorded at 50% less than normal in April. Lacy also said car transportation is “pretty much a direct relationship” to air quality, meaning that the air quality in North Carolina has surely improved.
These unintended improvements in the environment give people the opportunity to make long-lasting changes. In the words of Sarah Myhre, a climate scientist and environmental justice activist, “The way in which the world recovers from the pandemic is vital in the fight against climate change.”
Along with climate change, many other environmental issues can be reduced with the help of citizens and more political policies to enforce action. For example, it is time for the United States to follow the footsteps of Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Chile, by implementing an official ban on the use of plastic bags. Enforcing larger nationwide policies like this could make a monumental difference, as it did for these countries.
Environmental activists have been working hard for a long time to persuade people to take part in helping the environment. Seeing the state of the earth during this pandemic has displayed how achievable the goal of healing the environment really is moving forward.
As states start to reopen, it is more important now than ever to protect the environment as much as we can. If we begin to take the environment seriously by doing our part to take the actions we have been advised to do—cutting down on plastic use, driving less and recycling—the earth could benefit immensely. Imagine what we unintentionally accomplished during quarantine growing into real lasting change for the future.