How’s the planet doing during quarantine?

The coronavirus lockdown has had surprising effects on the global environment. Between reduced pollution and the return of animal species in typically crowded urban areas, mother nature is using this time to recover.

The noticeable decrease of air pollution in cities known for smoggy skies has encouraged people all around the world. Factory shutdowns and travel restrictions have reduced the number of fossil fuels and manmade pollutants, such as aerosols (tiny particles that cloud visibility and cause damage to the heart and lungs) that are usually released into the air. In China, carbon emissions have decreased 25 percent, and aerosol pollution throughout India is at a 20 year low. Nitrogen emissions in Europe, especially Italy, have decreased significantly and pollution along the US East Coast has gone down 30 percent.

Though things are looking up for air quality right now, many are concerned about what will happen as lockdowns are lifted and daily activities resume. Environmental leaders met virtually for a two-day conference to talk about a green recovery plan, in which economies and societies would begin to rely on more eco-friendly practices. For example, in Milan, leaders have announced a plan to create new bike lanes and wider sidewalks with the goal to reduce traffic congestion and pollution; making cycling and pedestrian traffic easier, safer, and more accessible. 

People all around the world have transitioned to working and learning from home. Social media has allowed people to share stories and pictures showcasing their lives in quarantine and how their communities are coping with lockdown. Some of the most popular images come from the canals of Venice, Italy. Due to strict lockdown restrictions, the canals have been vacant and clear, allowing many animals to return. Residents have shared dozens of pictures and videos of fish, seahorses, and even octopi to social media

For some species, vacant cities mean less food. Animals in popular tourist destinations often rely on the people to feed them. In Nara, Japan sika deer were seen wandering around the streets searching for food. In Thailand, a group of monkeys ran through the street before fighting over something that was thrown among them. Other animals have simply taken advantage of the empty streets; venturing out of their natural habitat to explore. In Barcelona, a group of wild boars went for a stroll and a herd of goats in Wales toured city streets. 

Though daily life has stopped for people all around the world, the lockdown has given us a glimpse of our planet’s health. In this trying time, we must come together for the sake and health of our loved ones, communities, and world.