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A Message from Mother Nature

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Perhaps it is hard to fathom the scale of the real situation of countries all over the world in response to the COVID-19 lockdown, until you come across photos of places that, in normal circumstances, are the most crowded destinations. Empty streets, closed factories and shops, and the hush is everywhere. An idea crosses your mind then: “How has this bustling planet become so bereft after all these years and years of productivity and breakthroughs?” Nevertheless, the pain and anguish you feel are not the same for nature.

At the beginning of lockdown, it was not that evident how the environment has changed since the coronavirus outbreak; as the lockdown continues, however, a positive change is sensed in everything around us. This has turned out to be a golden chance for nature to take a breath after a very long time of suffocation under the increasing pressure of the human footprint.

Following the closure of factories, the recess of pollution belts has become evident over industrial cities within days of lockdown; nitrogen dioxide emissions—a major air pollutant linked to factories and vehicles output—have dropped. Key environmental indices, which have steadily deteriorated for more than half a century, have also paused or improved.

Reports reveal that China, Italy, Germany, the UK, and dozens of other countries are experiencing temporary falls in carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide of as much as 40%; a great improvement in air quality with positive effect in reducing the risks of heart attacks and lung diseases. Moreover, Venice’s canals have become clearer, and small fish have appeared in the waterways again.

Carbon levels have dropped as well, which means healthier air to breathe, even for a short-term period. In China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, emissions were down about 18% between early February and mid-March 2020. Europe is also predicted to see a reduction of around 390m tons. The good news is, even if these changes are only for a short-term, Earth is expected to see its first fall in global emissions since the 2008–2009 financial crises.

Here, a question arises: “Is it possible for the world to emerge cleaner after this pandemic?” We should grasp first the difference between a cut in emissions, and the actual levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Despite the economic slowdown, greenhouse gases are still emitted, and “carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are still high,” reports Oksana Tarasova, Head of Atmospheric Environment Research Division at the World Meteorological Organization. “The reduced emissions within one particular year of this scale are very unlikely to have an impact on global levels of carbon dioxide,” she explained.

Such experience provides us with a glimpse of just how quickly nature can heal; yet, it comes at a high cost as thousands of people have lost their jobs, and it never could be a solution on the long run. People and governments should set a strategy and systemic change regarding our energy infrastructure and emissions, which will be fiercer later if we kept the same mentality in using energy. In a nutshell, we are part of this planet, and every action we take affects it. A tight strategy for recovery, including a shift in human behavior and habits towards nature, is essential for a good today and a better tomorrow.

 

References

euronews.com

nytimes.com

theguardian.com

 

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