11 April, 2020
11 April, 2020
Published by Rasha Rehman
For the first time in 30 years, the Himalayas were visible from nearly 125 miles away from different areas in India. Giant pandas in Hong Kong zoo, Ocean Park mated for the first time in more than 10 years. Levels of air pollution in New York City have decreased by 50%. These are a few of the many unintended benefits of suspended human activity, quarantines and travel bans in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
There is no doubt this virus is transforming every industry as it is halting economic activity, public gatherings and day-to-day activities that have been a large part of our routines. It’s scary and frustrating. However, this pandemic is inadvertently relieving wildlife and the environment.
Global air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have dramatically decreased. The most popular air pollutant is nitrogen dioxide which is omitted from cars and powerplants and can cause respiratory problems. Recent images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show the decline of toxic gas clouds including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide over metropolitan cities in the United States, Northern Italy and China.
Yes, the drop in air pollution in these countries may be temporary until power plants and industrial facilities resume operations but a short drop makes a HUGE difference. China’s CO2 emissions make up 30% of global emissions.
Let’s not forget about noise pollution. Humans have contributed to underwater soundscape through maritime shipping and transportation, naval training, ferries and vessel operations which are now restricted. Circulatory noises from maritime transport affect reproductivity and increase stress-hormone levels in marine animals. This noise contributes to decompression and sickness in the brains and hearts of whales. This damage is fatal and as you read this, we are giving marine life a long overdue break.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, one-third of global food produced is either lost or wasted. Processing, packaging and transporting food requires an enormous amount of resources already. With stockpiling and self isolation policies in place, more shoppers are focused on making necessary grocery trips to buy essentials. We’re encouraged to use and consume what we already have and not waste any food.
These changing habits aren’t just for food but are applicable to at-home resources as well. Staying at home is encouraging people to engage in DIY trends, activities and projects with existing materials at home. We’re making less purchases, using what we already have and wasting less. Less purchases of let’s say clothes, halts people from engaging in fast fashion as a new season is around the corner.
App payments, self checkouts, curbside pickups and home deliveries are the new normal, for now. This pandemic is accelerating the self serve culture which is already in place. Small businesses are transitioning online, and customers are opting to online shopping. These changes are becoming popular amongst all generations, from millennials to baby boomers.
How does this help the environment? There’s less need to drive around your city to shop, online shoppers can receive coupons, bills and receipts digitally and the large e-commerce platforms, Amazon, Craigslist and eBay encourage individuals to reuse and recycle what they own through selling. The changes in this digital arena stretch to our governments as well as they rework education and healthcare systems. The digitization of education; online learning portals, Skype meetings, pdf textbooks, etc. is eliminating the amount of resources we use.
Our communities are still connected. Online fitness classes, live stream performances and community-scale initiatives are strengthening the solidarity between us. Wildlife animals are roaming the streets freely in different parts of the world with minimum interruption to their dynamics and relationships.
This break from our daily lives gives us an opportunity to think about our environmental impact, sustainable development, value local ingredients and organic materials. Amidst the anguish we are also spectating the many ways this global halt is benefiting the environment and wildlife.
"Communication lead by day and media entrepreneur by night; Rasha is a passionate Toronto-based journalist. Adopting nutrition and fitness habits and striving to make a positive impact on the envrionment keeps Rasha going."
- Rasha Rehman -
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