• Eesha Sullivan

The side effects of Coronavirus on nature

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Vacant streets, silent factories and stores, and no trace of airplane condensation trails above. We try to avoid close contact on a daily basis as we’re being asked to distance ourselves from others. These are the times of the Coronavirus. 

Most business meetings, live entertainment events, and travel have completely frozen and become virtually non-existent; car trips and plane flights become irrelevant in times of fear and social distancing. The result is a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global warming. The drastic drop in fossil fuels has reduced our common carbon footprint.

Our excessive time spent in our homes has given the environment a chance to heal itself. Throughout the world, signs of a healthier planet are shown; air and water have become clearer, there are lower nitrogen dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and previously struggling animals are thriving.

In the canals of Venice, the lack of boats and heavy tourism, have allowed the normally cloudy canals to transform into water clear enough to see fish swimming below. For the first time in almost 30 years, people in India have been able to clearly see the Himalayas due to a reduction in air pollution. Also, eastern India has recently seen a large influx of sea turtles to lay their eggs. The lack of human activity and reduced pollution allows for a quicker, more productive hatching season. 

Data from the Sentinel-5p, an Earth observation satellite, has shown that nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels have plummeted across Europe since the beginning of the pandemic. Nitrogen dioxide reacts with substances in the atmosphere to form acid rain and smog, which are dreadful both to our health and the rest of the environment. Nitrogen dioxide tends to be emitted by burning fossil fuels at high temperatures, such as in internal combustion engines, which have been radically reduced since diverse stay-at-home orders. 

However, the Coronavirus has also spawned some grim challenges for the environment. Unfortunately, Coronavirus has escalated plastic pollution. Disposable masks and gloves, which aren’t recyclable, paper and plastic silverware, and single-use plastics are ending up in dumps, on the streets, and in water bodies. 

Perhaps, the most important environmental impact of Coronavirus will be how we humans assess the event. The virus has shown how horrible and deadly the consequences can be when we ignore the warnings of experts and scientists, participate in politics preventing action, and risk our health for the economy.