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Some Good News Stories for the Planet  

COVID-19 and its effects have given a new meaning to Earth Month 

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Top image caption: COVID-19 and its effects have given a new meaning to Earth Month

Published on April 14, 2020

COVID-19 and its effects have given a new meaning to Earth Month 

The response to the COVID19 pandemic has seen industries shut down, travel restricted and residents urged to stay home. As a large portion of the world continues to take a collective pause, one begins to remark ways in which the planet is responding with its own signs of healing. 

In recent weeks, we’ve seen that the decrease in human activity has had a dramatic effect on atmospheric pollution around the world and has provided a breath of fresh air to residents in highly polluted cities with skylines oftentimes enveloped in smog. Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a staggering reduction in NO2 emissions - a pollutant released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities - in major Chinese cities and in northern Italy between January and February.  

Meanwhile, in the city of Jalandhar, India, some residents are seeing the peaks of the Himalayas for the first time in decades.  Jalandhar sits approximately 160 kilometers from the Himalayas, and as the countrywide lockdown was initiated, has recorded exponentially cleaner, healthier air in the last month than this time last year, with a phenomenal view of a remarkable mountain range to boot. 

Wildlife is also taking advantage of the slower pace of the built world and exploring the land and waters normally bustling with human activity.  From the mountain goats exploring the streets of Llandudno, Wales to the puffins venturing off the small, remote islands in the Mediterranean – species are adapting to the slow pace of human activity with surprising speed. 

The same thing is happening underwater as global trade has slowed and the noise of maritime traffic decreased. Off the west coast of Canada, pods of orca whales were spotted in Indian Arm near Metro Vancouver. According to long-time residents, this was the first time in almost 60 years that the whales made their way into the inlet. Meanwhile in Marseille, two fin whales have made a very rare appearance in close quarters to the Calanques National Park. As the second-largest mammal in the world, the fin whale very rarely ventures away from deeper waters, but nonetheless, it seems to have been drawn in by the halt in traffic and noise that typically engrosses these waters. 

© Paulista City Hall

For other species, this lockdown has given them a fairer shot at life, showing why nature needs space to live, grow and flourish too. In Paulista, Brazil,  97 endangered hawksbill sea turtles hatched and made their way out into the ocean, undisturbed by humans. For this critically endangered species, that 97 turtles were able to hatch and survive their trek to the ocean without over-curious humans or the threat of being captured and sold in the global wildlife trade, was momentous. 

While there is nothing to be celebrated about the COVID19 pandemic, it could very well change the ways that we view our relationship to nature, and present insights into the power of cascading changes to our behaviour. This crisis has shown how quickly communities and governments can act when it is urgent, and the planet, in response, is also demonstrating how quickly it can begin healing and thriving, when given the chance.