Covid-19 has halted the lives of millions of people around the world, forcing many to work from home and reduce contact with others. The pandemic has had a profound impact on not only the health and well-being of our friends and family, but also on our government, economy, and education.
But through these hard times, there exists a glimmer of hope. For the first time in human history, the majority of the world was placed in strict lockdown, and in that period of time, scientists were able to observe an environment void of human interaction. The findings, they report, are better than they expected.
First, satellite images show a significant decrease in air pollution in major cities such as Venice, Beijing, and New Delhi. As a result of the lockdown, factories were closed and less vehicles were on the road, drastically decreasing carbon emissions. Furthermore, travel restrictions were put in place for many parts of the world, also helping to decrease fuel use and overall air pollution.
In New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, air pollution has dropped by nearly 60% just after a few days into lockdown. To put into context, the air pollution in New Delhi was so bad in 2019, that a public health emergency was declared. After just one week of lockdown, NASA reports the lowest level of air pollution in India in 20 years.
Wildlife has also seen a benefit from the coronavirus pandemic. With less crowded beaches and forests, we have seen the resurgence of animals freely roaming without human intervention. Sea turtles, for instance, have returned to nesting on beaches in Thailand, while Flamingos have increased their numbers by a third in Albania due to the absence of tourism. While much can be said about whether or not the return of such wildlife is beneficial to the overall ecosystem, what is certain is the impact that just a few days of lockdown can do to our environment.
The majority of effects felt by the pandemic have been negative. However, it has also given us an opportunity to self reflect on how much of an impact that humans have on our wildlife and the environment. As lockdown restrictions are eased and we slowly return to our normal lives, air pollution will become a problem once more, and the wildlife will go back to their previous homes.
However, the pandemic can be used as a lesson that serves to teach us of how, with effort, we can drastically help the environment. It is up to us to determine how we go from here; we can continue to trash the earth, or we can do our part in making the environment the beautiful place that it can be.
Below are some before and after photos of major cities impacted by the coronavirus lockdowns