A few days ago, I saw a post on Instagram that elucidated the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has created a positive effect on the world. To preface this, I know how serious the pandemic is for the health and economic wellness of people worldwide. There are many people who are financially (and mentally) struggling from being forced to stay at home. While these hardships are devastating and bring light to the ways that governments could have handled the pandemic more effectively, it is important to also notice that there are different ways of looking at the situation.
With one threat comes the relief, or at least realization, of another. In this case, the rise of the corona virus has brought new light to climate change and our personal impact as contributors to it.
Could a global health pandemic really have any positive side effects though? Or is it ignorant to use a crisis to push for a climate change “agenda”?
As shown by NASA’s pollution monitoring satellites, from January 1 until February 25, the levels of NO2 (Nitrogen dioxide) pollution in Wuhan, China have decreased significantly (10% – 30%) during the time period where China’s quarantine actions increased. While there are other factors that play a role in this decline, such as the end of the Lunar New Year, and China’s growing environmental commitments, part of it is clearly due to the lack of factories being run and cars being driven in the country.
Italy, another country heavily impacted by the virus pandemic, has seen a similar reduction in Nitrogen gases in the atmosphere as shown by the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite. With the decrease in air pollution levels corresponding to the decrease in travel and industrial activities due the quarantine efforts in Northern Italy, it is evident that there is a direct correlation between the two.
Despite the predominantly negative effect of COVID-19 on the health and economic wellness of people around the world, there are ways to look at the pandemic through a positive lens. In fact, in such an anxiety-ridden time like this, perhaps this is the only thing we can do to endure an event that will inevitably change life as we know it. There are people singing from their balconies in Italy, teaching balcony fitness classes in Spain, and taking time to focus on self-care and physical health.
With change comes an opportunity to grow. The direction and force of the growth, however, relies on a collective perspective. Whether we choose to view this quarantine as a submission to the virus, or whether we choose to see it as an opportunity to call for global action. An opportunity to reflect upon how the natural world acts when our interaction with it is put on halt.