Coronavirus lockdown shows greener planet is attainable


Illustration by Brianna Bibona


Since mandatory lockdown for the coronavirus have been put in place in nations around the world, some of the most populated and polluted cities have seen a drastic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, clearer water and the return of animals to areas they had previously vacated. While this spontaneous recovery feels like a step forward in the fight for a cleaner planet, it also begs the question of how we can continue to make better choices for the environment after lockdowns have been lifted.

Due to a decline in travel, the northeastern United States saw a 30 percent decrease in Nitrogen dioxide emissions in March with New York City seeing a 50 percent fall in carbon monoxide production, according to a CNBC article. A decrease in air travel, which produces 2.4 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions, has also contributed to better air quality and less smog in populous areas such as Los Angeles and Seattle.

Unfortunately, while waters have become clearer in the Venice canals, photos of dolphins and swans returning have been debunked by National Geographic. This isn’t to say that all stories of animals roaming more freely are false. Whales were seen near the usually busy Mediterranean port of Marseilles in France and deer in Nara, Japan have begun wandering the empty streets in search of food as tourism decreased. In a remarkably short period of time, the environment has begun to recuperate.

However, this recovery is temporary and proves that a healthier planet is possible if we properly address how we respond to climate change. Once lockdowns have been lifted worldwide and the “curve has been flattened,” air and vehicular travel will begin again and manufacturing sites around the world will likely end up working twice as hard to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. This will ultimately reverse any of the brief progress made in the emissions of greenhouse gases as the world economy works in overtime to return to its prior sense of stability.

Even during the pandemic, multi-million-dollar corporations in the U.S. face bailouts by relaxed environmental regulations to assist “struggling” industries in the face of the coronavirus. Despite the compensation the world’s largest polluters are receiving, there’s still hope that the environmental recovery will inspire Green New Deals and a more environmentally conscious future.

In fact, progress already seems to be on the horizon as the European Union expressed passion for a Green New Deal in the recovery of the pandemic and has begun consultation on reducing carbon production by 2030. With thousands of people worldwide touched by the improved air and water quality and appearance of animals more freely, we need to focus our hope and passion on changing our consumption and production habits to be more conscious of the environment and focus on long-term plans to reduce carbon dioxide levels.

As the coronavirus enlightens us to our own mortality and the intensity of our carbon footprints, it’s important to realize that slowing the progression of global warming will only result from addressing it unabashedly and recognizing that our own environmental apathy will inevitably be responsible for the man-made “sixth extinction” if we continue without action.