In my last post, I talked about all the positive, personal effects of the pandemic. However, there have also been some very positive effects globally.
From the viewpoint of the economy, the NHS, the small businesses forced to close, increased domestic violence and of course the millions of people who caught, became ill and died from the illness, the last couple of years have been an awful, never-ending nightmare. But as always, there are always two sides to a coin.
Here are five positive changes I have read about recently:
The reduction of traffic on the roads and the closure of large factories led to a massive decrease in air and water pollution. This decrease has led to improved environmental conditions, and in some areas, animals returned to habitats they had not been seen for many years pre-pandemic - example needed?
Traffic reduction also caused a considerable reduction in road traffic accidents and, consequently, deaths relating to road traffic accidents.
The improvement in air quality in cities across the world may have potentially saved millions of lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that poor air quality is responsible for 7 million deaths worldwide - with people staying home, studies estimated that the emissions of toxic gasses and other pollutants in China dropped by 25% at the beginning of 2020 in comparison to the year before (diagram below}. The WHO estimated that 50,000 lives were saved in China due to this. This data has been backed up by satellite imagery that shows a reduction in air pollution over almost every highly-populated area globally. Although this figure does not offset the 5.5 million (figure at the time of writing) COVID deaths worldwide, it teaches us a valuable lesson on how quickly the world can heal itself from the harmful impacts of human activity.
The water quality improvement in rivers and other bodies of water also improved dramatically; clean waters and healthy aquatic life are essential for ecosystem function. In overpopulated places like India, rivers and other bodies of water quality was so badly polluted that they could not sustain life. Studies across the country showed a significant increase in water quality throughout the six-week lockdown in 2020 - The Indian Institute of Technology reported that the water of the River Ganga - link needed - became fit for human consumption after decades of being untouchable.
The positive effects of working from home. There are mixed opinions on this one - it is also not an option for many essential workers. However, most home-based employees across the globe reported a significantly positive experience. It is also one of the effects that are likely to last long past the end of the pandemic. Now that employers and employees have implemented and established routines and equipment, it is a viable option for many businesses to offer. A quick search on a job site indicates that many companies now offer full and part-time, permanent home-based positions. As well as the positive effects for employees - fewer childcare issues, less commuting and more flexible timetables were just a few of the positive outcomes reported. It also resulted in increased morale and quality of work.
The knock-on effect of increased home-based employees also circles back to number (1) - less traffic on the road - fewer accidents, and lower pollution levels.
Image showing the air quality over China before and during lockdown - taken from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13762-020-03021-3
Most of these positive effects will probably be temporary; many scientists agree that water and air quality will quickly decrease once human activity returns to complete pre-COVID levels. But, unfortunately, reports are already coming in that air pollution is increasing once again, ironically increasing the risk of serious illness from COVID.
COVID-19 and repeated global lockdowns have achieved in weeks and months what our world governments have been trying to accomplish for decades - It has taught us that the damage, the human impact on the environment, CAN be reversed. Not only can it be reversed, but it can also be reversed quickly.
Where we go from here is uncertain, we are still in the midst, still recovering from the losses - still losing and learning how to live with it. But what is certain is that if we allow the world to go back to the way it was, in just a few short decades, there won’t be anything left to save.
**If anyone is interested, I have text-linked to several fascinating research papers and websites on the subject. Also, if anyone has anything to add to the list, I would love to hear it.
Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.