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The best of a bad situation: Covid-19 and its silver linings

Covid-19 might have brought most of the world to a standstill but one thing loving it right now is the environment. The virus has caused devastation around the world but it has also made us sit up and take stock of our surroundings and how we’ve been treating them. 

We hear so much bad news on a day to day basis that I’ve started to seek out the good news. I’ve followed Emily Coxhead from the Happy News for quite a while, and absolutely love what she’s doing.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, The Happy News is a newspaper to celebrate all that is good in the world. Yesterday a friend also told me of another initiative, the goodnews_movement which is a journalist led Instagram account that again only shares good news.  All this got me thinking that I wanted to put together a post on the silver linings of the pandemic.

I’m extremely aware of how many lives have been lost, how many jobs have been redundant and how many families are being tested on a daily basis but for anyone needing some good news right now then hopefully this post will put a smile on your face.

  • Thanks to full lockdowns global electricity demand has been pushed down by 20% or more, says the International Energy Agency.
  • Across the full year, the need for electricity will fall by 5% - the biggest drop since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • Global CO2 emissions are predicted to be lowest in a decade
  • Paris alone saw a CO2 drop of 72% (+/-15%) in the month of March compared to normal.
  • The reduction in air pollution has helped our bees no end. Exhaust fumes disguise floral scents so with less cars on the road, the bees find it easier to find flowers making it easier for their dwindling numbers to survive. 

  • Reduced air pollution will also reduce, or at least delay, the current damaging of grasslands, wetlands, heathlands and woodlands.
  • Figures from Transport for London show that at the peak of the lockdown, at the end of March, traffic was at 50% of normal levels.
  • According to The Guardian, “restrictions to tackle the pandemic have led to a huge drop in road traffic and a fall in air pollution of up to 60% in parts of the UK. A YouGov poll commissioned by Greenpeace UK last month found that 71% of people were concerned about the possibility of air pollution returning to pre-lockdown levels once restrictions are lifted.” Hopefully these concerns will promote a change in the way we live going forward.
  • Whilst Venice's economy was virtually wiped out, one silver lining was the improvement in the city’s waterways. The water became crystal clear, the fish returned, and swans were spotted enjoying the waters!  These satellite images from the European Space Agency show the stark contrast between Venice's canals before and after the imposed lockdown. Unfortunately the pictures of dolphins enjoying the waterways were just a hoax but they have been spotted enjoying the peace & quiet of the southern coats of Italy.

  • We’ve all seen the photos on social media of wildlife making the most of our empty streets, such as the penguins in Cape Town or the mountain goats in Wales. Whilst in reality, the animals are probably not too far from their normal habitats it is still unusual to see these animals roaming the streets rather than the the streets being full of cars and people.

  • For the first time in almost 30 years people in the northern Indian state of Punjab could clearly see the Himalayas at over 100 miles away due to India's lockdown clearing air pollution.
  • Flamingo numbers in lagoons of western Albania have grown by a third in the absence of tourism and boating activity.

  • Thailand has discovered its largest number of nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in two decades as the lockdown has made it easier for Sea Turtles to nest without being disturbed.
  • Research on Humpback Whales in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska is hoping to show that the peace and quiet, due to the lack of large ships, has been a positive thing for the whales and their declining numbers.  New Scientist recently interviewed Christine Gabriele of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Gustavus, Alaska.  It “is early days, but Gabriele says that, in terms of traffic noise, “it’s very quiet”. That may mean the whales can spread out more widely. “They’ll be able to communicate with each other over much greater distances than they would be if it was a noisy environment.” It may also change how they call. “Will they have longer bouts of communication?” she asks. “Will they have more complex vocalisations?”  There is evidence that whales prefer the ocean with less shipping noise. In the days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, shipping ground to a halt, and one study found that whales’ stress hormone levels fell.”

  • After it emerged that the virus likely originated from an illegal wildlife animal market, conservation experts have labelled the coronavirus pandemic a turning point for change in the global wildlife trade.  There is still a long way to go but China has now introduced a ban on all farming and consumption of live wildlife, which is expected to become law later this year. Thousands of wildlife farms raising animals such as porcupines, civets and turtles have also been shut down.

The dangers of coronavirus should not be taken lightly, and it’s heart-breaking to see so many families divided and shaken by tragedy as a result of the virus but as we started to move forward perhaps our ‘new normal’ could be one where we start to listen to Mother Nature? As today marks the start of Plastic free July, perhaps you could take the opportunity to make some small changes in your life that will make a big difference to the sustainability of the planet in the long run.

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