In a very short time, the global need to respond to the threat of COVID-19 changed the way we live. And in that short time, we have seen huge environmental changes.
Restricted movements of people, reduced vehicular traffic and suspended operations of factories have led to noticeable improvements in pollution levels across the planet.
Blue waters flow through Venetian canals, and landscapes that have been obscured by smog for decades have become visible again. People living in Punjab are seeing the Himalayas from over 100 miles away as a result of improved air quality.
Sharply decreased volumes of cars in densely populated urban areas appear to be making the most significant difference and cities where restrictions have been imposed have all experienced a pollution plunge.
The rapid drops in pollution that have resulted from coronavirus lockdowns clearly demonstrate how intensely (and quickly) humans and industrial activity can affect the environment.
In a recent blog post, Sunil Dahiya of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air wrote that “the current crisis has shown us that clear skies and breathable air can be achieved very fast if concrete action is taken to reduce burning of fossil fuels.”
Clearly, the environmental effects of the economic shutdown can’t be expected to continue as industrial activity resumes, but there are many lessons to learn from what we are experiencing now.
The global response to the crisis shows that we can work collectively, across borders, to find solutions to large-scale problems. It also demonstrates how important it is when threatened by a crisis to act earlier rather than later.
Though the ship has sailed on acting early to tackle climate change, we can certainly take much of what we’ve learned from the current pandemic and apply it to the global environmental crisis before it’s too late.
The recovery plans that countries will need to adopt as their economies resume offer a unique opportunity to stimulate and encourage the development of technologies that have long-term, positive environmental impacts.
It should be incumbent upon governments to ensure that some of the stimulus funds that will be made available to help jumpstart the economy are directed toward bringing green technologies to market. In addition to addressing environmental challenges head-on, renewables, on average, create more jobs than fossil fuels.
People are naturally resistant to change, and the fear that we will have to alter the way we live has been a huge impediment in the battle against climate change.
But if the response to the threat of COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we can adapt. And we can adapt quickly. And it can have a profound effect on the kind of world we live in.
About the Author:
Yuri Mytko is the Director of Marketing at Innovobot and at Innovotive, the firm’s advisory services arm, where he offers clients solutions to their marketing and communications-related challenges.