By Chloe Vande Kamp
As cars become scarce on the roads, it becomes a bit easier to hear the birds and crickets. As pedestrian traffic slows and events are canceled, less of the grass struggles to grow around trash. The air is becoming cleaner, fracking has come to halt, and the world is seeing significant reductions in carbon emissions. One might see these changes as a silver lining to the global pandemic. However, it is important that this is not credited to COVID-19 but to people, or rather, lack thereof. The issues that are being solved were caused in the first place by humans. When lockdowns are released, it is everyone’s responsibility to fix it themselves.
In major cities such as LA and NYC, air pollutants and smog have diminished significantly. In fact, according to CNN, Los Angeles is experiencing its “longest stretch of ‘good’ air quality since at least 1995.” Lack of human activity has also allowed wildlife to thrive in America’s national parks—not to mention in marine ecosystems— giving hope for many endangered species. Flora is blooming, allowing the earth to take in what little carbon dioxide the lighter traffic still produces.
It may seem fair to say that the majority of people acknowledge climate change and its effects. Yet according to a 2019 national survey done by Yale, a shocking “69% of Americans” remain blissfully ignorant to the issue. The lack of acknowledgement of this persistent problem has made fighting for the earth all the more difficult, but the hope remains for activists and environmentalists that the clear correlation between COVID-19 and the start of positive changes to the Earth’s atmosphere will provide irrefutable evidence for the case of human-caused negative impacts. With this comes the hope that seeing these changes firsthand and within the grasp of human initiative will give others the push they need to take action.
Making changes is often daunting and difficult, and without motivation, efforts may come up dry. For decades the message of taking simple action against climate change has been advertised to the public, yet for decades a significant movement of change has been absent. Even so, the time the Earth has been given to heal has also been time for those with access to a safe environment to reflect and evaluate. Notably, not everyone in the current situation has room in their stress-crammed minds for deeper looks into the problems the environment faces; those with family at risk, those without homes, and those living in third-world countries have presently dire problems. Those in more fortunate living conditions, however, have the luxury of addressing environmental issues—these are the people who must encite necessary, who must take it upon themselves to make the small changes that have been neglected for so long: biking and taking public transport instead of driving, drinking from the tap and reusable water bottles, curbing excessive energy consumption, composting, and other small actions that will create massive change together.
Optimism for the environment in its current human-absent state is certainly not unfavorable during a time when people need some color to look at against the gray. However, the earth should not have to rely on global pandemics for the breath of fresh air it deserves, nor should first-world countries be acting like parasites infecting the earth, their vaccine being disease and war. Everyone and anyone with the access to create a change can and should create it. Once COVID-19 dissipates and normal life returns, people will all be granted a second chance to incite the change that will save the planet. This time around society cannot neglect it.
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