There’s no doubt that we’ve all witnessed the positive impact that our global lockdowns have had on climate change.
We saw less cars on our streets.
We saw more wildlife appearing in places we didn’t expect.
The air seemed clearer.
Out of the depths of a year full of despair, it’s been a welcome site to see what scientists have been saying all along.
If humans suddenly cease the activities that cause smog and other air quality issues, it turns out that those issues do improve.
From clearer city skylines to animals reclaiming land, let’s look at how Earth started healing during lockdown.
1. Air Pollution Levels Plummeted
With factories becoming idle and our streets void of cars, the air quality in the US dramatically improved.
This gave us a unique opportunity to truly witness our direct impact on air pollution.
In the Los Angeles area, air quality was ranked as “moderate” pre-lockdown.
At the peak of the lockdown, it was ranked at “good” and stayed there for the longest period of time since 1995.
And it wasn’t just the US that saw this trend in better air quality.
China, Italy and the UK saw much lower levels of pollution than previous years.
2. Rivers and Waterways Cleared Up
Fish could be seen in the Venice canals, the River Ganges pollution dropped by 30% and dolphins were seen in the Bosphorus.
The sharp decline in boat movement has settled normally cloudy rivers and waterways.
With the shutdown of factories in India, some parts of the River Ganges water was deemed as drinkable.
Around the world, pollution from agriculture and industrial runoffs is known to destroy critical habitats for wildlife.
Since lockdown, we’ve seen a resurgence of some aquatic wildlife.
In Delaware Bay, the Horseshoe Crab numbers were falling each year due to overfishing.
This year however, their numbers stabilized during their spawning season.
A small but significant victory for the species.
3. Animals Roamed Back Into Populated Areas
One pleasant surprise of the lockdown was the droves of wildlife we saw reentering our cities and towns.
These animals have always existed in these areas, but due to human activity, they’ve been too shy to venture out.
We’ve seen a cougar in Santiago, cows on Corsica beaches and mountain goats in Wales.
What we’ve witnessed so far is evidence that ecosystems can rebound very quickly once human intervention subsides.
It provides evidential hope that damaged ecosystems and wildlife can be restored if the right conditions are created.
A study from the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia found that marine ecosystems could substantially recover by 2050.
The most positive benefit we’ve seen is the enjoyment humans are derived from seeing more wildlife on their streets.
And the result could be more empathy and understanding between humans and wildlife.
4. Our Cities Are Quieter
People make a lot of noise.
Cars driving along the road, airplanes roaring overhead and trains rumbling along the tracks – all contribute to our noise levels.
The unexpected benefit?
Scientists are able to hear a lot more.
They’ve been able to record seismic activity that they would previously have not been able to hear.
The everyday vibrations of humans dropped as much as 50% in some places.
This reduction has helped scientists better able to zoom in on natural hazards by being able to better study human-caused seismic patterns.
5. There Are Less Airplanes Polluting Our Skies
When we were all ordered to stay home, a lot less of us were flying in the skies.
Air traffic dropped dramatically, and is still today far from its normal levels.
Unfortunately for the airlines, this is the worst crisis the industry has ever faced (according to Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the IATA).
Air travel is one of the least environmentally friendly ways to travel.
Not only has this decrease in air traffic had a positive impact on air pollution levels, it has also made us rethink essential travel.
More people have changed their attitudes towards taking their vacation domestically.
Coronavirus will change how we travel for a long time to come.
Airlines will have to balance safety and profits, people are wary to stray too far from home and fewer travelers could result in more expensive travel.