Hope Found in Troubling Times

Kate Heister, Science and Technology Writer

We live in troubling times. Covid-19 has taken a lot from the entire world. It’s easy to feel sad, lonely, and stressed. But at times like these, it’s important to remember to find something to smile about. One very positive thing that has come from our social distancing is the return of the natural world. Pollution and climate change has negatively impacted the natural world, but now that people are at home, we’ve seen a real change in the state of the Earth.
One of the most amazing things that have come from social distancing is the animals that come out into the world while everyone is at home. Deer come into cities and cross the streets in Japan, sea lions have been spotted in cities in Argentina, and sea life, including birds and sea plants, have come to the once-brown-now-clear canals of Venice.
Worldwide there is less air and street traffic, both major causes of climate change. In Europe, there have been drops in flight activity in places like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain. All of these countries are major flight hubs. The number of flights between Europe and the United States has dropped from almost 500 a day to 90, and thousands of jets have been stuck on the ground. In total, flight traffic has dropped around 80% in Europe. As for traffic on the ground, worldwide, rush hour has disappeared as people shelter in their homes. Traffic levels have dropped by 60% in Mumbai, India, and 28% in London. Because of the drop in traffic, oil prices have dropped dramatically, and for the first time, producers in Saudi Arabia have had to pay someone else to take the oil off their hands. Sound levels in most urban areas have dropped and the sounds of nature can finally be heard over the sound of traffic.
Because of the sudden drop in traffic, as well as a drop in fossil fuel usage, air pollution levels all over the world have dropped, and the visuals that come with this are stunning. The city of New Delhi has had drops in fine particulate matter by 60% and 70% in Nitrogen Dioxide. In the city of Punjab, India, the once smog-covered snowy peaks of the Himalayas are now completely visual. And this is just in India. Los Angeles, one of the most air-polluted areas in the US, has had its longest stretch of clean air on record and now even meets the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. It has seen a 51% drop in fine particulate matter. The skyline of LA is now clear and completely visible, not covered in smog. Pier-Paolo Ergueta, ’22 has a positive outlook on these facts. He said, “I have seen many pieces of good news on the climate front. Just yesterday, renewable energy generation surpassed coal generation in the US for the first time in 130 years.” He has also stated that “…it really is up to all of us to carry on with climate activism, and it will ultimately come down to our efforts in the moment.” Now more than ever our eco-friendly actions can make a real difference.
These drops in air pollution could not have come at a better time either. Normally, air pollution kills millions each year. However, researchers have been building a case to formally state that air pollution has worsened the effect of Covid-19 on everyone. People who have been exposed to air pollution for a longer period of time or people who have a predisposed respiratory issue are even more at risk when it comes to the virus. Therefore, the drop in air pollution has led to fewer lives at high risk from the virus.
Right now, more than ever, your actions can make a difference in the state of our world. It is important to acknowledge the natural world around us, especially now that it’s more vibrant than it has been in years. Remember to be mindful of your actions and keep a positive state of mind, because you can make a difference.