By: KATE SAARI
Covid-19 threw our world into a loop when it infected our nation. Americans panicked as they were abruptly advised to stay quarantined within their homes, many unaware of their future employment status. As the people were full of fear of the economy crashing and of themselves catching this gruesome disease, our planet felt otherwise. Not only have people been affected by Coronavirus, but so has our climate. Although, not in the same negative manner you may be thinking.
Let’s go back in time to when things felt a little less chaotic, at least to humans. When traffic was a typical aggravating scene, sidewalks and public areas were littered with waste, California constantly being on fire, and so much more. Our environment was stuck in its own toxic plague, created by the people themselves through their regular narcissistic ways. On the other hand, once the United States was contaminated with the deadly disease, limiting our carbon footprint, we got to see from the point of view of our ecosystems. Since March 13th 2020, the outside world has received a chance to finally take a breath.
In 2019, the Health Effects Institute located in Boston Massachusetts detected that air pollution became so despicable and serious, it was “…the fifth leading risk factor mortality world wide.” Since we as a nation have stopped leaving our homes as often, this has led to a cutback in air pollution. The EPA (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) reported that in 2019, 70 million tons of pollution was transmitted into the atmosphere. 70 million tons, think about that number for a minute. All the smoke from large factories, car exhaustion, trash, and so much more were partners in polluting the Earth. If you can believe it, that number is equivalent to the weight of 350,000 blue whales. We need some good news. Well, The American Geophysical Union, based in Washington D.C, identified that the air pollution in the U.S has dropped 60% since the pandemic. That huge reduction of lethal chemicals released into the open air occurred because Americans remained at their homes for a decent amount of time. Even though we complain about wearing masks, not being able to eat out at our favorite restaurants, or go shopping, notice how much our country benefited environmentally just by staying inside. What does this mean for the Earth exactly you might ask? It means our planet in many different areas have had their pollution levels drop. The air and water pollution has completely changed from where it was from 6 months ago. Andrew Hudson, head of the water and governance program states “…the impacts of COVID-19 on the health of the ocean have largely been positive due to the reduction in various sectoral pressures that lead to pollution, overfishing, habitat loss/conversion, invasive species introductions and the impacts of climate change on the ocean.” What Hudson means is that over the course of Covid-19, fisherman and factories haven’t created waste to then dump into the ocean, which they would have normally done. As mentioned earlier, air pollution and water pollution has gone down drastically, but there is still more that we can do to help the Earth.
Since the pandemic shut down an extensive portion of the world for a large period of time, many industries are all rushing to get back to where they were before to make up for vanished time. By jumping back too quickly, it cancels out all the good we gave to Mother Nature while we remained in our homes. “There’s a serious risk that polluters could emerge from this crisis bolder and potentially more profitable than ever,” says Lukas Ross, who is a senior policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, an advancement group. Industries such as fossil fuels, plastics, airlines, and automobiles have been scurrying for a leg up in the big race of earning back the money lost during Covid-19. By doing this, all that pollution saved would then again be let back into the air and oceans. Also, since Coronavirus has caused us to use masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, where do you think a lot of those products end up when you throw them away? “The quantities of masks and gloves found were far from enormous,” said Joffrey Peltier, who is a part of the Opération Mer (Operation Sea) foundation. Peltier was concerned over the fact that the findings hinted at a “new type of pollution.” This pandemic has led to many changes, whether it’s wearing a face covering or just washing your hands. There are plenty of ways to fight this issue, like wearing reusable masks and biodegradable gloves that you wash after use and be thrown away. Instead of buying multiple small containers of hand sanitizer, buying a larger amount can be used to refill the smaller bottle.
America needs to ask themselves one question: Are you willing to keep our environment healthy and listen to the statistics and facts to realize our world became a little brighter over quarantine? Now, having 0 pollution isn’t logical, but what can become realistic is having a low pollution rate and having it deteriorate each year as much as we can. Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to give our Earth what it’s been asking for all along. A break.