Even the gravest of occurrences have some silver linings, and COVID-19, in all of its dreariness, has been pretty good to Mother Earth. There have been some negative drawbacks, but on the whole, the environment is one thing that has actually been positively affected by the novel coronavirus. Stay-at-home orders mean less cars on the road, and social distancing means less people at national parks and beaches in need of a good cleaning. A study now published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal went as far as to say, “In China alone, all of these air quality improvements that have outnumbered confirmed [COVID-19-related] deaths thus far.”
Here is a closer look at 5 positive environmental impacts caused by COVID-19.
1. Environmentally Friendly Infrastructure
With many citizens greatly limiting their travel, cities and states alike have been upgrading their transportation systems (trains, cars, planes, etc.). At a quick glance, a reasonable response to that would be, “Nice, better roads,” but fortunately, with advances in infrastructure resilient to climate change, it also means structures made with environmentally friendly materials, reduced waste, and made renewable-resource-ready, depending on the locale.
Some jurisdictions with a bit less of a “convinced” mindset towards climate change do, however, have a lot of legal loopholes in place regarding renewable energy, but at least making structures ready to switch power when the law allows is something to breath easy about (literally).
2. Lowered Emissions
As touched on in the intro, limited travel and social distancing have been large parts of increased air quality across the globe. Even NASA satellites have produced photographic evidence of less smog in urban areas.
As many large businesses in these large cities are becoming aware of the positive effects (both socially and monetarily) of corporate social responsibility, it’s also reasonable to think that many corporations will take into account all of the positives that come with remote work, and maximize opportunities do so in a world where going green is as good for the trees as it is the bottom line.
3. Moral Awareness / Disaster Relief
Most natural disasters affect those who can actually see the destruction first-hand much more deeply than people who just see pictures and videos. With a truly global pandemic affecting everyone on Earth, the overall will to “help a neighbor” has been tried and true during the COVID-19 wave. Some places just had much better disaster preparedness practices than others, and where there were shortages in one area, and excess in another, the right moves were made.
Only time will tell if optimism turns to reality, but thinking that the global reach of this disaster and the “all in this together” mantra will lead to more disaster relief for issues some people may not be familiar with (hurricanes, tornados, famine, earthquakes, etc.) is definitely beyond reasonable.
4. Clean Beaches
Over the last 10 years, roughly 60 million Americans visit a beach per year. Couple that with coastal population booms, and it’s safe to say the sand in the United States gets a lot of foot traffic. Though the lack of tourism certainly hurt the economy, it gave the beaches a long overdue break, resulting in massive decreases in coastal pollution, deep beach cleans by locals, and increases in water quality.
5. A Little Bad with the Good
With closures of schools and a lot of work places, brought with it closures of some recycling centers, resulting in a lot of recyclables being trashed. The increases in online deliveries are certainly sensible, but they, too, added to an uptick in waste production, due to packaging. Additionally, medical waste (including masks and gloves) experienced a steady uptick as well.
Ultimately, the environmental effects of COVID-19 are things we can take a bit of resolve in, as pretty much everything else has been affected negatively by the pandemic. Increases in air and water quality should continue to be steady, new infrastructure with renewable resources now exist and just need some legislative boosts in areas, a lot of public places that needed a good cleaning have gotten it, and the only negatives on this list involve human actions that can be adjusted, moving forward.