While Covid-19 devastates the human population worldwide, its consequences lessen the impact of the climate crisis.
Italy, France and Spain are on lockdown, the U.S. has closed schools nationwide, Canada has sealed its borders. With nearly 8,000 deaths and over 198,000 infected across the globe, there is a collective sadness permeating our reality. It may seem difficult to find a silver lining in such trying times, but there is one: The benefits to the environment that this pandemic ripple effect provides.
Less Transportation Pollution
Major tech companies have implemented mandatory telecommuting for their employees, which removes thousands of commuters from the rush hour equation. In addition, multiple airline carriers will be forced to reduce flight schedules in the coming months (which will hopefully also end ‘ghost’ flights). Both of these actions result in a vast reduction of pollution and conservation of fuel. Furthermore, if companies that haven’t previously permitted telecommuting see productivity remain consistent, it may encourage them to adapt the policy long-term.
The news reels after major sporting events and music festivals almost always show massive amounts of garbage generated by audiences, the majority of which ends up in landfills. With the cancellation of large gatherings and conferences that bring thousands of people together, large volumes of waste won’t be generated. This reduces the release of methane and the greenhouse effect that would result from it.
Plant-based vs. Meat Consumption
Another way the coronavirus impact reduces methane production is through our altered pattern of food consumption. As officials are advising everyone to stock up on non-perishable items, it’s pasta, rice and beans that are flying off store shelves instead of meat and dairy products. Furthermore, restaurants are closing or remaining open only for carry-out meals, which causes them to order less food for preparation, including meats.
Recovery of Natural Areas
With quarantines in place and non-essential travel nearly eliminated, many resorts, parks, beaches and other natural spaces that would usually see a lot of activity from humans are getting a break. This means an organic rehabilitation not unlike (yet not as regimented) as what the government of Boracay, Philippines did a few years back to restore their damaged environment.
Healthy Actions for Ourselves and Mother Earth
So, what’s the best way we as individuals can both protect ourselves from the outbreak and be good stewards of the environment along the way?
- Stay informed with frequent updates from the World Health Organization.
- Wash your hands often (and properly), with guidelines from the CDC.
- Find light in healthy distractions.
- Respect grocery store limits so your less vulnerable neighbors won’t be short of any necessary supplies or food.
- Continue to recycle, remember to care for your plants and flowers, and avoid single-use plastics. Basically, do all of the things you would normally do to foster a healthy environment.
Above all else, remember to breathe, practice social distancing and limit the amount of disaster news you consume each day.
We’re all in this together.