Coronavirus and Pollution

May 19, 2020

The Coronavirus has certainly made a mark in history, causing panic and changes worldwide that have not been seen in recent times. Stores have closed, streets are quiet, and factories have shut down. It is certainly different than usual for our everyday lives, but how have these changes affected the environment? 

    “We’re seeing in some places the best air quality in decades,” The policy director for  Coalition for Clean Air, Bill Magavern, stated in an interview with ABC news. All around the globe, clear skies and fresher air has made itself present. China’s density of NO2, which can cause a weaker respiratory system, dropped 25% between January and February. Many places including Italy, New York, France, and other major areas in the world have seen drops in air pollution as well. This is due to the fact that there is a decrease in vehicles on the road and factories have been closing down. Although it may not look like it has done much but clear the sky, the World Health Organization estimates about 5 million deaths globally from pollution per year. These few months the world has experienced less air pollution and has been estimated to have saved 50,000 lives in China alone. If the problem continues to be acknowledged and worked on, it could save many people.

    Other things have occurred due to the pandemic as well. Recently, animals have been roaming the streets and traveling to unlikely areas. This is because people are staying inside and observing instead of it being constantly busy. Zoos have also had certain struggles with the lack of human visits. Darren McGarry, a zoo owner for 34 years, stated to The Guardian, “The chimpanzees start to wonder why there’s nobody wandering around and they go to the window to look for people.” This has been a problem around many different zoos with animals missing the times they usually get to interact with humans. Other than animals and air, it has been said that waters have become cleaner and clearer. In Venice, Italy, the water has recently been the clearest it has been in 60 years. The reason for the water being transparent could be due to less pollution but it could also be due to the fact that not many boats are on the water anymore.

    Now that the world has reduced its pollution by a great amount, the question is, will it stay like this? Many experts say 2020 is an important time to make decisions about climate change and limit global warming, but this does not necessarily mean it will stay like this. There is a fear that once the curve of the Corona cases flattens and it is safe to re-open things, the pollution levels will go back to the high number they were. Others believe this could spark sense into people that change is needed. “The important question now is how China’s government will respond. To make up for lost economic activity — including after the 2008-2009 financial crisis – the government’s usual response is to launch massive stimulus packages focused on polluting smokestack industries, that would make the environment worse long-term.” Said Lauri Myllyvirta,  the lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki, to the Chicago Tribune. It is currently unknown what will happen after Corona passes.

    Although this is a scary time full of the unknown, there are still some benefits in this world due to this. It could only last for a small period, but maybe these times could spark realization in people of what needs to be done to help keep our world safe and healthy.

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