two women look out at nature in yosemite

Four months into a global coronavirus pandemic, some countries around the world have started to re-open society under a new normal. However, many communities have returned to stay at home orders to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 as it continues to spike in some areas. During what has become an isolating or uniquely challenging time for us all, it is more important than we cultivate positivity by seeking inspiration as we work our way towards collective healing. 

If you’re in search of inspiration, look no further than just outside your window!

Mother Earth is taking a breath of fresh air. The worldwide slowdown in human activity is helping our planet heal in ways we have long hoped to see. The positive impact on our planet is an added benefit to humanity staying at home en masse, and it is certainly a sight worth celebrating. 

Air Pollution is Declining

Countries all around the world are seeing notable improvements in air quality due to a combination of less cars on the road and a slowdown in industrial activity. In New Delhi, a city typically plagued by high levels of smog, residents are seeing clear air and blue skies for the first time in decades. The Indian Capital normally has an air quality index (AQI) of over 200 – dangerously high compared to the safe score of 25 according to the World Health Organization. Since India’s nationwide lockdown on March 24, the AQI in New Delhi is averaging at around 20, even falling as low as 7 one day. The city has over 11 million cars registered, and with less drivers commuting, exhaust carbon emissions are at a low.

Travel restrictions have also dramatically reduced the number of flights being taken. Commercial air travel is one of the biggest sources of emissions, contributing an estimated 5% of the harmful gases that cause global warming. As airlines are grounding large portions of their fleet, our skies are getting a much-needed break from air traffic and, as a result, the atmosphere is clearing up.

Cleaner Water in Our Oceans

Similarly, our waters are also experiencing the positive effect of decreased human activity in light of the lockdown. In Venice, the water in the iconic canals is the clearest it has been in 60 years, according to officials. With less tourists flocking to the historic Italian city and less traffic on the canals, Venice’s waters transitioned from a murky grey to a more natural blue. Reduced foot traffic from tourists also means less waste in the streets, and less possibility of single-use plastics polluting the lagoon.

In South Asia, the water flowing through the Ganga river is also showing improvement. According to the Ganga Pollution Control Board, the water quality has improved noticeably amid stay at home orders. Once upon a time, the river had been known for having water so pure that one could drink it straight from the source. If nearby settlements are able to sustain the water’s quality even after COVID-19, there is hope that the Ganga river can return to its former glory.

Wildlife is Reclaiming Land

The absence of humans has also encouraged animals to venture into spaces that are often too crowded with people for them to explore. In Wales, a herd of goats took over a local town as they freely roamed the empty streets and grazed on neighborhood trees. In San Francisco, just by the beloved Golden Gate Bridge, residents noticed coyotes enjoying a day at the beach at Kirby Cove. In Paris, wild boars peruse the streets once occupied by travelers, fashionistas, and cafe crowds. In Poland, families of deers are taking a stroll through the peaceful towns. Back in Venice, gondolas have been replaced with swans and fish swimming throughout the canals.

In our absence, animals are coming out of hiding and reconnecting with nature. The sight of wild animals interacting with our urban environment is an important reminder that we, as humans, are not alone in this world. We are, in fact, guests in an ecosystem that we share with species other than our own. We must remember that it is our responsibility to encourage animal conservation by creating an environment that can help wildlife not only survive, but thrive.

The Human Impact on Atmospheric Conditions

All the positive changes we’ve seen as a result of a worldwide shutdown are a needed reminder of the direct impact human activity has on the wellbeing of our environment. Although it is heartwarming to see notable improvements in air and water quality, we need to commit to sustaining these improvements if we want to see the planet continue to heal long after the pandemic is over. If not, we risk going back to square one. 

For example, in China, air pollution levels fell 25% across the country during its national lockdown period. However, as China moves into a post-coronavirus phase, air pollution is slowly beginning to increase again due to the return of traffic and the re-opening of power plants and factories. The coronavirus taught us an important lesson about the extent to which humanity is responsible for the state of our environment, and we can’t lose sight of this learning. Let the “new normal” we enter after this chapter be truly new, absent of the mistakes we’ve made in the past.

How Can I Help? 

If we want to continue healing our planet, we need to come together and take action to protect the future of the earth. At an individual level, there are behavioral changes and everyday solutions that can help you live more sustainably. At a collective level, we need to push leaders to make systematic changes that make our society more planet-friendly.

Are you ready to take a stand? Start by making your voice heard. Click here to sign ClimateVoice’s pledge to advocate for companies to go all-in on planet-friendly policy advocacy and sustainable business practices.