The Environment and The Pandemic
This pandemic has brought the world down to its knees, and the need for social distancing in the present times cannot be emphasised enough. With the majority of the people locked up in their homes, a peculiar observation is the effect of this lockdown on the environment.
As we know the lockdown initially restricted the movement of the people and we were strictly advised to stay in our homes. As a result of this, there was a reduction in vehicular movements and all other sectors of the economy (except agriculture) were shut down. Hence, in just a few weeks, there was a noticeable impact of the same on our natural environment. There were many apparent changes in the environment, like, the enhanced air quality, decreased levels of carbon emissions, and the restoration of wildlife.
The post-pandemic environmental conditions will certainly have improved but at the same time, we cannot be sure if these changes are impactful enough to eradicate the current climate change. According to Mckinsey & Co “A global public-health crisis presents imminent, discrete, and directly discernable dangers, which we have been conditioned to respond to for our survival. The risks from climate change, by contrast, are gradual, cumulative, and often distributed dangers that manifest themselves in degrees and over time. They also require a present action for a future reward that has in the past appeared too uncertain and too small given the implicit ‘discount rate.’”
Moreover, the changes which we are witnessing are deemed temporary. Once the economy reopens the particulate pollutant levels are likely to return or even exceed pre- coronavirus measurements. Air pollution isn’t only the environmental concern right now, various other factors have to be looked after as most of the countries all over the world are going through an environmental crisis. In India, ninety – two Asiatic lions have died in Gujarat’s Asiatic Lion Landscape (ALL) since January 2020, according to a Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) committee report. Several lions have died of inmate fighting whereas a rampant number of them have died through canine distemper virus, which is a contagious and serious disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system. Unfortunately, this has not been covered by the mainstream media given the focus on the pandemic related news.
The recent Russian oil spill in the Ambarnaya river has put local ecology at risk, therefore forcing the Russian Government to impose emergency in the area. It’s estimated that the oil spill will take ten decades to clear up fully meanwhile a cleanup will take place that shall focus on containing the diesel fuel and preventing it from flowing into the Pyasino River, which drains through a nature reserve into the Arctic Ocean.
Hence, we cannot say that the environment is healing because many other challenges have to vehemently be looked after. The depletion of carbon emissions can stay stable only if we continue to be cautious. Return to normalcy will reopen the aviation sector that transmits around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions along with other gases as well as the production of water vapour trails by the aircraft. Thus, the industry contributes to as much as 5% of global warming. According to BBC Future, it could be avoided, if a large chunk of the population goes on a flight diet - the way of reducing the impact of our travel through airways in order to minimize the emissions. When you are on a flight diet you have to look for alternative means of transport so that you can reduce the carbon footprint which is caused by your travel.
Taking all of the above into consideration as well as other prevailing environmental problems, one cannot equate the pandemic with the annihilation of the environmental issues. Though both of them are the “tragedy of commons”, we still cannot place them on the same grounds. In fact, this is the right time to take up the opportunity of environmental activism and familiarize people with the ongoing controversial environmental circumstances.
By - Shriya Bhatt Graphic by - Gayathri Nair
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