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3 ways the coronavirus is helping the environment
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3 ways the coronavirus is helping the environment

Buildings are reflected in a calm water due to the absence of motor boats on March 30, 2020 in Venice, Italy. The Italian government continues to enforce the nationwide lockdown measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

There’s little good that can be said about a global pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in the untimely death of tens of thousands worldwide, a global economic recession and the collapse of health-care systems among many of the hardest-hit countries.

But there may be a silver lining for Mother Earth. Amid the destruction, the pandemic has brought forth wins for sustainable industries, clean energy and a world that leaves room for humans and animals to coexist happily.

So as lockdown despair creeps in, take heart in the potential environmental benefits of the spread of COVID-19.

Decreased air pollution

Manufacturers are shutting down factories in the interest of social distancing, and that’s giving the planet room to breathe.

By early March, the coronavirus had taken hold of China’s Hubei province. Meanwhile, energy experts were already seeing a change in China’s air quality. China’s carbon emissions were 25% lower in February compared to the same time last year, Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki told the AP.

That reduction is equivalent to more than half the annual emissions of the UK alone, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China’s level of nitrogen dioxide, a greenhouse gas that can cause respiratory problems and cancer, was down 42%, according to government monitoring stations.

That reduction is equivalent to more than half the annual emissions of the UK alone, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China’s level of nitrogen dioxide, a greenhouse gas that can cause respiratory problems and cancer, was down 42%, according to government monitoring stations.

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A view of Narayanhiti Palace Museum, seen empty during the seventh day of a nationwide lockdown, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 at Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 30.

Normally, air pollution causes about 4.6 million premature deaths annually worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

But evidence is showing that our atmosphere might just be a little healthier during this time. Satellite images released by the European Space Agency (ESA) have shown a dramatic reduction in atmospheric nitrous oxide.

And following global social-distancing measure, Madrid, Spain, saw nitrous oxide levels fall by 56% in March, while cities including Paris and Milan as well as Brussels, Belgium, and Frankfurt, Germany, have experienced similar drops.

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A combination image shows NO2 emission readings for Milan from March 2019 versus the same period in 2020, based on European Space Agency Sentinel-5 satellite data.

Animals have more room to roam

As humans take to the indoors indefinitely, animals have begun to encroach on urban areas. In Nara, Japan, the sudden cessation of tourism has prompted herds of deer, who used to feed on food scraps left by people in public parks, to wander farther into the streets in search of a quick bite.

In New Delhi, India, and Lopburi, Thailand, packs of wayward monkeys are loitering at storefronts and invading closed shops. In Oakland, California, wild turkeys were seen playing tag in a schoolyard as children are taking lessons from home.

And, in the Welsh town of Llandudno, a herd of wild mountain goats had their fun while villagers watched from their windows.

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Plus, who knew a vacant zoo could be so arousing? After more than a decade of trying to coax pandas Ying Ying and Le Le to mate, the pair, located at a Hong Kong zoo in Ocean Park, have finally consummated their relationship — possibly thanks to a lack of ogling voyeurs.

“It gives us some hope when Hong Kong is clouded with so much negative news,” said Chinese lawmaker Yiu Si-wing.

China banning wildlife trade

Many experts have placed blame for the coronavirus outbreak, as well as some previous viral epidemics, on the notorious exotic animal trade, which includes the sale of bats, dogs, cats and more.

The historically under-regulated and unsanitary industry, with a stronghold in some Asian countries, has furthermore been detrimental to populations of rhinoceros, elephants, crocodiles, tigers, turtles and pangolins.

Under global pressure to reign in this black market, lawmakers in both China and Vietnam have decided to place a ban on the consumption of wild animals.

“Once the pandemic is controlled and the ‘tourniquet’ can be released, I see the world paying attention to the original cause,” Deborah Calmeyer, who runs ROAR Africa, says.

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