The world is at a standstill. Most establishments are closed, movement is restricted, and people are asked to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the global pandemic that has affected over a million individuals all over the world and claimed nearly 60,000 lives.
Unfortunately, the number of confirmed cases continues to go up, and the death toll too. All of this news can take a toll on people’s mental health. But as is said, no matter how sad, every cloud has a silver lining.
Amidst this pandemic, there are reports about how our planet is slowly healing.
The world’s largest lockdown in India has seen a dramatic drop in its suffocating pollution levels. “I have not seen such blue skies in Delhi for the past 10 years,” Jyoti Pande Lavakare, the co-founder of Indian environmental organization Care for Air said in an interview with CNN.
Manila, notoriously known for its high level of air pollution, now has clear skies. According to government reports, air quality has improved in the metropolis during the lockdown indicating that it now poses little to no risk to people’s health. In New York, the pollution level has dropped to nearly 50% compared to the same time last year because of the quarantine measures taken to stop the spread of the virus. In Italy, Spain, and the UK, satellite images show how nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions are fading away. Many people are now breathing smog-free, cleaner air and enjoying a prettier night sky.
Before the pandemic, there has been one natural disaster after another. From the destructive rainforest wildfires in the Amazon and bushfires in Australia, indicative of how much the planet is suffering. That the world is healing is welcome news.
Why is this happening?
At this moment, it’s no longer ‘business as usual’. Economies have ground to a halt as many businesses and organisations are forced to close due to government quarantine measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
This has resulted in the decrease in harmful gas emissions. Transportation alone accounts for almost a third of greenhouse emissions worldwide. Many cars are off the road as we are asked to stay indoors. Air travel is limited as most countries enforce lockdowns and closed off their borders to non-residents and citizens to limit the spread. These modes of transportation emit harmful gases into the air contributing to global warming and climate change.
This lockdown and home quarantine have show that we can reduce our carbon footprint. These are positive changes, yes, but they are also short-term. What will happen when this pandemic is over and we all go back to our busy lifestyles? On social media, people are already planning their next vacations, social gatherings, and other resource-dependent activities that they were deprived of during the lockdown.
Read more: Quarantine and Pandemic Lockdowns Lead to Reduced Pollution Around the World
It begs the question whether humans will learn a better way forward and develop environment-friendly habits and implement sustainable practices, systems and infrastructure that could lead to long-term positive environmental impacts.
Here are five things individuals and businesses can do during and after lockdown.
1. Drive less.
Our ‘new normal’ means we are forced to live slower. So perhaps instead of using our fuel-guzzling private vehicles to drive five minutes down the road to pick up groceries, that we choose to walk or ride our bike instead.
Since more people are now working from home, perhaps more businesses will implement a working from home policy which will not only help to reduce transport-related emissions but reduce traffic congestion as well. In fact, this lockdown has forced us to see the future of work and that allowing employees to work remotely can lead to productive, profitable and environment-friendly outcomes.
For those who need to drive, plan your travel so that you can conserve fuel and lessen your time on the road.
2. Flex that green thumb.
Gardening can take away stress and the reward is get you get beautiful flowers and get to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. No space? Try urban gardening. You can plant herbs, tomatoes, and even eggplants. Gardening, especially the organic and chemical-free variety, also helps to promote sustainability. During lockdown, who isn’t envious of friends who have balcony or home gardens where they can access fresh herbs and vegetables whenever they want?
Related Post: 16 Herbs That An Amateur Green Thumb Can Easily Grow
3. Plan your meals.
Now that we’re spending so much time at home, we’re likely getting better at meal planning and becomes more creative in our kitchens. We’re planning what we want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and to snack on, as food becomes a central pleasure and something to look forward to. To ensure a balanced diet and minimize the need to head to the shops, we plan our meals, batch cook and use up produce to save money, reduce food waste and minimize the need to head down to the shops.
4. Conserve energy and water.
You’re likely using more water and electricity as you’re forced to stay indoors more, and that means larger electricity and utilities bills and a greater impact on the environment. Be responsible in your resource usage, conserve where you can and save money. Avoid laundering clothes and bedding unless necessary. Since you aren’t leaving home as much, there’s no need to shower so often, and when you do have that three-minute shower, place a bucket at your feet to collect excess water and use that on your gardens (do not do this if you slather on lots of shampoo, conditioner and soap chemicals). Switch to green electricity as a way to reduce your household carbon footprint.
5. Do more with less.
Perhaps the most important lesson from this pandemic. Certain things in life are dispensable but then there are the essentials: family and relationships, food, shelter, good health, sleep – and if you’re like most people, music and art. When life is stripped back to the essentials, we realise we can do so much more with less and that we have time to explore our creative and artistic sides by reusing and making stuff from what we have at our disposal. Maybe this pandemic is nature’s way of telling us to slow down, to enjoy simple pleasures, to make room for things we really love, to put people and planet first before profit ,and to connect with what is most important: ourselves and each other.
Remember, change begins now; not when the lockdown is over. We may all be too absorbed about this pandemic but let’s not forget what the planet is telling us. Be an advocate. Some people used to say that they didn’t have the time to listen to how we can take care of our planet. Now we have all the time to listen.
This novel coronavirus is a battle that we are fighting right here and now, but saving this planet is the battle of our lifetime.
I read somewhere that man shouldn’t be too proud to say that he could save the planet. Earth is omnipotent. Man can only set things right and hopefully, we can save ourselves along the way.
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Feature image via Shutterstock.
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