A lot has happened these past months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While trying to stay safe, we’ve directly and indirectly affected the environment through our actions. The effects of COVID-19 on the environment are seen in positive and negative ways:
The pandemic caused the world to be on lockdown. During this period, all activities were put on hold. Industries stopped production, all forms of transportation and movement were restricted. This gave the atmosphere a little space to breathe.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels dropped in some heavily polluted countries. China, for example, recorded a 25% drop in GHG emissions. This is one of the positive effects of COVID-19 on the environment, especially during this period of Climate emergency!
Human actions like overfishing, which has a huge impact on our oceans and biodiversity ceased, due to less demand from global markets.
There’s also been cases of water clearing, especially in cities with lots of polluted water. This can be linked to the restriction on transportation and closure of industries. An example is the canals in Venice, Italy.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
On the negative side, the pandemic led to an increase in the usage of face masks and gloves. These Personal Protective Equipment are not properly disposed, and are seen in parks, walkways, parking lots and every other place that isn’t a bin.
Due to their light nature, they are easily carried through the action of wind and water into water bodies, where they cause pollution. This has contributed to the current water pollution problem. There are several cases where these PPE have been seen on beaches during clean-up activities.
With the current fight to eliminate single-use plastics and beat plastic pollution, the pandemic has contributed to an increase in its usage. Bans are placed on reusable products to reduce the spread of the virus, and food delivery is now very popular. This has increased the use of single-use plastics.
Recycling activities are also affected during this period. In the United States, for example, some recycling facilities were shut down to reduce the spread of the virus. This is also one of the negative effects of COVID-19 on the environment.
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The absence of environmental protection workers has led to an increase in illegal activities. Loggers used the pandemic as an opportunity to carry out illegal logging. Data from The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows 64% more land in the Amazon rainforest was cleared in April 2020 than in April 2019. This is harming our rainforest and threatening biodiversity.
What happens next?
When this is all over, we will try to make up for the lost time. The positive effects of the virus on the environment won’t be felt for long if not sustained. While we’re staying safe, we need to do more to keep the positive effects positive, and change the negative to positive ones. We owe it to ourselves and the environment.
Remember, we are the environment.