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The Surprising Impact Of Staying Home On The Environment

COVID-19 had a profound impact on the world, including the environment. Here's how shelter-in-place requirements effected our surroundings.

Written by
Katherine Marsay

COVID-19 has had a severe impact on human health and the world economy. Currently, our best defense against the virus is the restriction of human mobility and interaction. This means working from home, participating in limited social gatherings, and postponing countless events. Although tough on society, COVID-19 has proved to be a breath of fresh air for our Earth. 

How COVID-19 Cleaned The Air

As governments ordered citizens to stay at home to minimize the spread of COVID-19, there was a significant decrease in road and air transportation. This led to a decrease in energy consumption and less demand for oil, causing industrial activities to shut down. The result? Less nasty emissions released into the environment, like carbon and nitrogen

This has also led to a significant improvement in air quality. A decrease in smog has been reported all over the world during lockdown but the biggest improvement has been in India. Normally reporting hazardous or unhealthy air quality, in April cities all over India sighted blue skies as the pollution levels dropped to its lowest level in 30 years!

The Decline Of Tourism’s Impact On Water 

The tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic as many countries closed their borders to foreigners and imposed isolation regulations upon new arrivals. But this decrease in tourists has actually led to improved water quality. The emissions produced by cars often end up in nearby water sources and coasts miles away. With COVID-19 limiting road travel, water bodies have begun to clear up.

Industrial closures have also reduced water demand causing increased water flow and dilution of pollutants. Take Venice, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Italy. Venice is normally full of pollution from water buses and taxis but since lockdown locals have noticed the canals have become clear enough to attract shoals of fish, seaweed, and swans.

It is worth noting though that the growth of food deliveries and online shopping resulting from the pandemic, has increased the number of micro and macro plastics ending up in our freshwater bodies. The increased number of single-use items purchased and packaging these items come in are usually made from plastic.

These plastics can be harmful to organisms and provide troublesome effects to aquatic ecosystems. Recently, disposable face masks have also become a major source of pollution, ending up in our landfills, freshwater, and oceans. So keep this in mind when thinking about your food delivery and online shopping habits, and stick to reusable face masks if possible!

The Effects of COVID-19 On Wildlife

With restricted human movement, the disturbance caused to wildlife has been greatly reduced, giving animals more space to hunt and breed. Less traffic has decreased noise pollution so you can now enjoy the sound of birdsong in the morning. It also means birds can communicate more easily, increasing their reproduction rate. This better communication leads to an increase in migratory birds returning to urban rivers and lakes. Less fishing activity has seen dolphins return closer to shore and gives coral reefs the ability to flourish.

Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do if we want to reduce the impact of climate change. Most of these benefits will be short-lived, especially as a result of this year’s decrease in recycling and increase in single-use plastics.

That said, this pandemic has inspired immediate action and shown that humans are capable of performing the changes necessary to fight against a global crisis. Throughout this short period, we have seen the potential of adjusting our lifestyles and hopefully, this will motivate us to continue combating global warming.