It is very likely that you are reading this very article from inside your home, perhaps while trying to make yourself comfortable in the middle of all the stress and anxiety that this pandemic has wrought. It’s true that this pandemic has driven almost everyone indoors, leaving the world outside more or less ‘deserted’ save for essential workers and those on errands or supply runs. But have you ever wondered: what does this mean for the natural world? What sort of impact has this pandemic left on nature?
It’s easy to think that the outside world has grown much, much quieter without the hustle and bustle of people moving: commuters going to and from work or school, people shopping or enjoying leisurely activities, and more importantly, industrial activity. And, well, that’s true. And you’ve probably seen those pictures of swans and other animals supposedly returning to their habitats in larger numbers, but how much of that is true?
While we shouldn’t forget the heartbreaking effects of this ongoing pandemic, perhaps it is also worth examining what nature is going through as well. Right now we are seeing the impact we ourselves leave on this planet we call home.
First off, let’s start with the air we breathe. The world is seeing a very large decrease in overall carbon emissions with much fewer cars out on the roads. China has seen an improved air quality with carbon emissions falling by 25%, which in turn may have saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 years of age. Madrid, Spain has seen a large decrease in nitrogen dioxide by 75%. And the rise of remote work during this pandemic will probably affect on carbon emissions in the long run. That’s some good news to keep our spirits up, right?
How about the fauna? With regards to animals, there has been some false news circulating around social media that wild turkeys are now wandering Oakland, CA, and that dolphins and swans have all but taken over Venice’s canals. Again, false news. But in Japan, sika deers have been spotted wandering the streets and subway stations of Nara. And shockingly enough, a puma was seen prowling about Santiago, Chile! Naturally, fewer humans guarding places means more animals moving about freely.
Let’s move on to how this pandemic is affecting the sea and oceans. The increase in silence throughout the world- both on land and in the sea, especially concerning cruise ships- is allowing scientists the opportunity to observe the acoustic environments of our oceans. “We’re experiencing an unprecedented pause in ocean noise that probably hasn’t been experienced in decades,” states marine ecologist Michelle Fournet.
With all of this going on, then, it is no surprise that more and more people are turning to nature to remind themselves of the beautiful things in the midst of this catastrophe. Parks are seeing activity (with proper social distancing, of course!) and people have taken to purchasing more indoor plants, even. Hopefully, we’ll learn to be kinder to nature and to live in moderation when the pandemic is over.