Commentary: Will some of the positive ecological effects from the pandemic last?


Hadley Goodvin

Students participate in last October's Global Climate Strike outside of Sandpoint High School. The Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the environment globally. Will the positive ecological effects seen in some parts of the world during the pandemic last?

Wyatt Waud, Club Editor

The Coronavirus Pandemic has an inescapable impact across the world. Every corner of the earth has felt the ripple of coronavirus in some form.

From record-breaking economic downturn to violence over toilet paper, the widespread disease has had many unforeseen outcomes. However, one effect most everyone saw coming was the rapid detox the environment has experienced.

Unsurprisingly, a three month long break from almost all destructive human activity has done wonders for the most damaged parts of the natural world. Take the Chinese capital of Beijing, for example. In 2019, the city’s best year for air quality in a decade, was at the high end of what AirNow, the organization that measures and tracks air quality worldwide, considers safe for outdoor activity.

Will the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the earth be long term? Of course, this question is tough to answer right now.”

— Wyatt Waud

Last year’s average of 42.6 dwarfs the pollution the city has seen since the outbreak of coronavirus, which has recently gotten as low as five. Emissions in the nation alone have dropped 25 percent since the beginning of the epidemic, with the rest of the world soon to follow.

Not only have the skies gotten clearer, but so too has the water; as millions of Instagram stories across the world have shown, the waters in the canals of Venice are running clear for the first time in decades.

The complete lack of boat traffic after Italy all but shut down has allowed the riverbed to calm down, and made room for fish, ducks, and swans to return to the city. (The dolphin video was, unfortunately, filmed in another part of Italy).

Though this news of environmentally recovery is a much needed bright spot in a very dark time, the question must be asked: will the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the earth be long term?

Of course, this question is tough to answer right now.

The duration and severity of the pandemic will directly affect how long emissions go down for and to what extent. However, the main drop in emissions has been a result of travel bans, with transportation making up roughly 23 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the massive dip in transportation emissions has been noteworthy, it’s tough to say how the travel bans will carry over after the disease has passed.

There’s a chance that the pandemic will instill a greater caution in people, resulting in less travel. Were this the case, the COVID-19 epidemic would likely have an extensive effect on global emissions for years to come.

On the other hand, it’s equally possible that travel will explode once people are finally released from their homes.

In the end, time and circumstance will be the determining factor in coronavirus’s environmental impact, but with any luck, the recovery of the natural world will instill a greater sense of conservationism in those around the world and proving that not even global pandemics are entirely bad.