It would seem as us humans are forced to stay at home, mother nature has taken the opportunity to heal the earth. But are these signs all superficial, or have some of the effects of our nature destroying habits been reversed?
Sharp falls in road traffic, commercial flights and industrial emissions have resulted in air pollution levels across the world to drop dramatically. In India, the skies in some of the most polluted cities have cleared and, according to Bloomberg, the air quality index has risen to satisfactory levels in nearly 90% of the country’s 103 cities. Closer to home, the UK has seen nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall by upto 60% on the same period last year. A Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reports shows that globally these air quality improvements have resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency cares and 600 fewer preterm births. The authors of the report say the natural response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries.
Jenny Bates, a Friends of the Earth clean air campaigner, told the BBC: “Seeing this drop in air pollution shows that less traffic can quickly lead to cleaner air. Once this dreadful situation is over, we don’t want to rush to go back to where we were or worse, and we can’t have an accelerated return to business as usual. We can have a better, cleaner future for ourselves and the planet.”
In recent years, the gradual introduction of restricted cruise ship movements in Venice has been welcomed by many as the ancient city struggles to keep up with the mass tourism demand. However, locals reported that the regulations had done little to have a lasting positive impact on the city and its canals.
Being the first non-Asian region to enter a Coronavirus induced lockdown, Venice’s canals have been traffic-free for over two-month and the water has turned crystal clear. A spokesperson for the Venice mayoral office told CNN: “The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom. It’s because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water’s surface.”
A local from the area, Gloria Beggiato, told The Guardian: “The water is blue and clear. It is calm like a pond, because there are no more waves caused by motorised boats transporting day-tripper tourists. And of course, the giant cruise ships have disappeared.”
It is yet to be seen if this lack of disturbed sea bed will have a lasting positive effect on the city’s ecosystem, but local sources are already pointing to this being a fresh start of rulemaking to keep the canals clear.
We won’t know for some time yet what the lasting effects of Coronavirus will be on our daily habits. However, it is certain that our new way of living will have changed us all for good. Just as coronavirus has forced us to slow down, focus on what matters to us and consider our surroundings and community, this may well translate into a more thoughtful approach to how we travel. Maybe taking one longer trip per year instead of packing in five or six shorter ones, staying away from the masses and crowded areas, or possibly focusing on exploring your world closer to home, and opting a sustainable way to travel.
“Overtourism is just another form of overconsumption,” said Shannon Stowell, CEO of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. “I’m fine seeing tourism numbers lower overall and for the quality of tourism to increase, where people understand the destination better and have a positive impact on it versus overcrowding and pollution and wildlife habitat loss – which are all outcomes of too much tourism,” he added.
For many of us, flying will still be inevitable. However choosing how you fly and subscribing to a carbon offset program like our own Impact Fund, will drastically reduce your impact on this slightly more healed world.
Let us hope that as a result of what has been a tragic pandemic can we reap the benefits of this time of both reflection and eco-healing.