The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world as we know it, shutting down economies to prevent the spread of the disease and affecting nearly everyone in some way.
But, compulsory self-isolation has meant people all over world have begun noticing various positive impacts arising either directly or indirectly as a result of the restrictions put in place. These are worth reflecting on before we rush back to life as it was.
1. Our amazing key workers and the support they are receiving
The NHS continue to do amazing working in the most trying of circumstances, but let’s not forget the carers who also are doing an outstanding job, along with all the other key workers. We just want to say a heartfelt “Thank You”.
Community spirit and the willingness to help others has shown what puts the great in Great Britain. More than 750,000 responded to the call for volunteers to support the NHS in helping 2.5 million at risk people. Others have supported by raising money, including war veteran Captain Tom Moore, who started off intending to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday. As at 30th April, his actual 100th birthday, he has raised £30m for the NHS. In times of crisis it’s fantastic to see tremendous acts of kindness and people coming together.
2. Blue skies in China
In February, air pollution readings in China’s most polluted cities, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, reduced to the lowest levels in six years.
60% of electricity production in China comes from coal. This process releases high levels of particulate matter into the air, causing the smog associated with densely populated cities and industry. However, reduced demand during economic shutdown, as many industrial activities temporarily ceased, meant people in usually polluted cities could enjoy blue skies from their apartments during isolation.
3. Clear water in Venice
With very little motorised transport currently on Venetian canals, the usually churned muddy waters have cleared as sediment has settled, meaning fish, crabs and plant life can be seen for the first time in years. In turn, cormorants have been spotted diving for fish that they are now able to see. ‘Overtourism’ is a contentiously debated issue in Venice, and the sightings of wildlife revealed by clear waters highlights how nature and the local environment could benefit from addressing these issues.
4. Turtles thrive in Thailand
It is believed that tourists keeping away from beaches has helped the endangered leatherback turtle during its hatching season as a record number of eggs have hatched in Thailand this year. Phang Nga national park staff reported finding 84 hatchlings after two months monitoring beaches in February and March.
5. The Himalayas can be seen from northern India
In April, the Himalayas were seen from approximately 200km away in Punjab, northern India, for the first time in three decades. Like in China, this is a result of lockdown restrictions leading to reduced air pollution, which has allowed the smog that usually obscures the view of the mountains to clear.
6. Shows of appreciation and solidarity, from a distance
As well as the positive impact on nature and air quality, people all around the world have being showing their gratitude to health professionals and other key workers at an unprecedented scale.
People have sung or performed from their windows or balconies simply to show solidarity, helping connect communities while in isolation. Community engagement like this has been seen in many countries, including Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Iraq, Turkey, Croatia and Brazil. Here in the UK, people have been applauding for the NHS every Thursday evening since lockdown began.
7. Reduced carbon dioxide emissions
Lockdown restrictions in many countries have led to vastly reduced travel, via road and air, and reduced demand for energy for many businesses. Our own analysis has shown that by working from home our team is saving approximately a tonne of carbon emissions each week, enough to fill an 8.13 metre cube.
Reports have shown predictions of a 5.5% reduction in global carbon emissions in 2020, compared to 2019, which is equivalent to 2,000m tonnes of carbon dioxide. However, it is important to note that the same analysis highlights that this is not going to be enough to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. To do this, global emissions need to fall by 7.6% each year this decade.
Why take notice of the positives?
The Covid-19 pandemic has required countries to take drastic measures and mass cooperation to reduce the spread of the disease and prevent health services from being overwhelmed. Other global issues, like the climate emergency and biodiversity losses, also require drastic measures and mass cooperation. In the same way that lockdowns are only effective if the vast majority stay in, our response to climate change will only be effective if virtually everybody acts to reduce emissions to net zero.
Strategies to control the spread of Covid-19 have, unintentionally but successfully, reduced carbon emissions and air pollution, created better environments for wildlife and brought communities closer together. Now we need to think about how we can bring about these changes long-term, to create a sustainable, healthy world where both people and wildlife are free to enjoy the benefits.