Can the environmental impact of the coronavirus be sustained?

Shutterstock.com/ Yogesh Attri

The coronavirus has been a terrible tragedy for humanity. The numbers of those ill and dying are far too high and it will likely define an entire generation as we will look back for many years at the coronavirus pandemic. While it feels strange to look at positive during such a trying time, it can help people to cope with the increased stresses being placed on the world. One of the greatest positives since the start of the pandemic has been the impact on the environment.

As many countries entered different forms of quarantine and lockdown, city streets went from bustling to deserted. The factories that were pumping pollutants into the air have been closed. The emissions from cars have been stopped as most cars remain parked. The flights all over the world that drive carbon emissions higher and higher are all grounded. In short, the largest negative environmental factors have all been put on pause. 

In cities across the world where smog is a year-round problem, it is starting to disappear. The skyline over Belarus in Lebanon is usually a blanket of smoke but is now totally visible.  In India one of the most populated countries in the world where pollution is a huge issue, skies are clearing. In the city of Jalandhar in Punjab it has not been possible to see the Himalayan mountains for the last 30 years, yet today they are visible. People have taken to social media and are uploading incredible pictures of the mountains on the horizon. To think that man-made pollution has caused this problem is both logical and surprising at the same time.

In China, early statistics have shown a 25% drop in emissions with further drops expected. Transport alone makes up 23% of global emissions worldwide. During the coronavirus pandemic, this contribution has dropped to almost nothing. While it is fantastic to see the environment healing like this and some beautiful parts of the world returning to their former glory, we know it can not last.

Scientists say that the coronavirus environmental bounce back will be a mere dip on the trend of increasing pollutants that we are seeing. They say that during the economic crisis of 2008 a similar drop was recorded and while this one may be larger it will bounce back strongly.

That is of course unless people learn something from this ordeal. In the last year, people like Greta Thunberg and many others have been very vocal about our responsibility in lowering emissions in our atmosphere. Yet most people do nothing. Most people feel that we are on a path that can’t be altered. They think that humanity is too set in its ways to do anything but continue to use cars, planes, and other pollutants in the way that we have always done. Perhaps the pandemic can show people that it doesn’t have to be this way.

If everyone left the pandemic with greater respect for the environment and a commitment to trying to save it companies would follow. If organizations put in more environmentally friendly activities we could see a long term reduction in our emissions. We simply need to show the world that it is something we want. 

If your world is a little brighter, if your skies are a little clearer then it is up to you to keep them this way. Let the businesses that you use know where your priorities lie. When the world restarts, as it no doubt will restart, we can make sure that it is not just in a better place in the short term. If we restart this world with better intentions, we can make a lasting difference.