COVID-19: Bad For Humans, Good For The Environment And Everything Else

COVID-19, the deadly disease that has affected more than 16 lakh people globally and killed at least 95,700, has resulted in the occurrence of an unprecedented set of events.

Countries like the US, China, and Italy have sealed their borders and a lockdown has been enforced in numerous cities to combat the novel coronavirus. People have been asked to stay at their houses; most non-essential businesses have been suspended temporarily; and restrictions have been imposed on import and export of goods.

However, as much as the lockdown announced in various countries is wreaking havoc with the global economy, a few good things too have come out of it.

Drop in air pollution levels

A report stated that at least a quarter of the world’s population, or roughly two billion people, have now been forced to stay at their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak. This has resulted in a slump in economic activity and restricted movement of people, which in turn led to a favourable impact on the environment, particularly the air. The proof for this has already been seen from space.

The image above shows the drop in pollution levels in China after the reduction in human activity. Image source: NASA handout/EPA via The Guardian (Click on link to open image source)

A study of air pollution levels shows a drastic drop in numerous countries over the past few days after the lockdown was implemented. Air pollution in China, which was proving to be a major threat, has plunged amid the unprecedented lockdown. China has reported a 50% reduction in gases like nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide due to the shutting down of production companies and industries.

The reduction in commercial air travel has also helped reduce pollution.

Furthermore, production of thermal energy (generation of electricity through burning of fossil fuels like coal) has dropped significantly since electricity consumption by companies came down after they had to reduce their scale of operations or stop operations temporarily.

A drop in thermal energy production and electricity consumption can definitely help improve air quality in countries which rely mostly on this form of power. Another factor that could be considered here is the season in a particular region and the climate zone, which distinctively affects the usage of heating appliances in various establishments across different climate zones.

Reduction in noise pollution

Now that most non-essential business establishments have been temporarily shut or have reduced their output levels, there is a decrease in noise pollution levels that would normally occur as a result of running industrial machinery and work at construction sites.

Noise pollution, which used to be a hindrance to people and animals alike, has now gone down. Image source: The Independent

The major source of noise pollution, vehicular horns, has now been temporarily nullified due to the restrictions on movement of people.

Wildlife makes a reappearance

Animals, in a fascinating move, have started venturing into cities, supposedly reclaiming their land after human beings were taken out of the picture through restrictions on movement. Pictures shared from around the world show animals roaming on streets without fear.

A civet is seen roaming on the streets of Kozhikode in Kerala. Image source: Twitter via RFI

In Europe, wild boars have come down from the hills around the city of Barcelona, while ducks were seen walking in and around Europe. In the Mediterranean, dolphins have reappeared in several ports.

 

Deer are seen roaming the streets now devoid of humans. Image source: Getty image via The Guardian

Due to the lockdown across the globe, birds have made a comeback with their chirping and singing, the sounds of which were lately drowned or replaced by the sound of horns and many other forms of noise pollution.

The reappearance of these birds was an unexpected phenomenon, according to several residents who live in what used to be busy, noisy cities. This is reportedly because air and noise pollution levels have fallen sharply all over the world, with streets being largely deserted and empty of the traffic that normally taints the air we breathe.

Fact Check: Has the ozone truly recovered due to lockdown?

The ozone, which is the protective layer of the atmosphere that has been shielding the earth from harmful rays, had a gaping hole over Antarctica due to excess pollution. However, reports recently came up saying the ozone is now showing signs of recovery after reduced human activity and pollution.

These reports are said to be false, since the true reason behind ozone recovery is said to be a result of the ‘Montreal Protocol’ according to a study that was published by the Nature Journal on March 24.

The ozone appears to be showing signs of recovery. Image source: NASA/AP via The Guardian

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed between 197 countries in order to minimize the use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). These ODS include greenhouse gases emitted from air conditioners, refrigerators, industries and many more.

A UN panel of scientists said that a report before the year 2000 indicated that the hole was expanding. However, the hole, which had earlier increased in size to around 30 million square km, had stopped expanding after 2000.

It is said to be showing signs of restoration after being stabilized for almost two decades, reportedly due to the Montreal Protocol, and maybe not due to the lockdown.

Conclusion

Humans now have verifiable proof that we are the only reason behind the destruction of the earth and its elements, and that we have, all these years, been abusing what it has to offer. Now that we have been locked up, nature seems to be finding ways to rightfully restore itself.

One might even say the COVID-19 pandemic was a much-needed respite in a world mind-numbingly running to keep up with the speed of its development.