By Orville Williams
With a massive reduction in pollution caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, one environmentalist says now might be the time to effectively plan a socio-economic change in attitude toward the environment.
Speaking on the impact of the coronavirus spread on the environment, executive director of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), Arica Hill, says she is buoyed by the many natural improvements that have been occurring.
“With COVID-19, there have been quite a few notable environmental impacts globally. I know that many people have read many articles about – for instance – China’s air quality improving.
“We’re seeing that the canals in Venice have clear water now and they’re seeing schools of fish and dolphins, something that they have not seen in many, many years. Obviously, this is because of reduced travel and reduced manufacturing activities that have been happening,” she says.
Hill is joined by many naturalists, conservationists and environmentalists in welcoming these recent changes, but she is also very cautious, as most of the actions are being enforced by the spread of the virus and not necessarily being done voluntarily.
She warns the socio-economic revival after the pandemic could bring even greater pollution than before and, in maintaining this environmental rejuvenation as best as possible, the onus is on the relevant authorities to effectively plan for a better way forward.
“It’s great that we’ve seen some benefit, but the expectation from many of the persons who have been writing about this, many scientists, is that it won’t really last.
“Once economic activity can begin again, we are going to see that the pollution again will rise. If persons are now trying to recoup money from manufacturing, what they will do is work even harder, so the likelihood of air pollution to have a greater uptick following this whole period of isolation and quarantining is very [high]”, she explains.
The EAG head says, “It would require for governments – especially governments in developed countries and in China – to take the time to look at their environmental policies going forward, how are we going to look at manufacturing and find the means to become more environmentally sustainable in how those things are done?
“How are we going to look at travel and see if there are ways to implement more environmentally-sustainable practices? How do we look at cruise ships,
there are environmentally-sustainable practices that can be implemented?
“I don’t have those answers, but there are answers out there and it requires many minds, many viewpoints to all come together and figure out the best solution for people and for economies and for health moving forward as well.”
While she is speaking from an environmental point of view, Hill says she is also very much aware of the tragedies the coronavirus is causing across the world and no matter the benefit to nature, the impact on human life must be considered before anything else.
“There has been a positive impact on the environment, [but] it’s a strange thing to say because COVID-19 has such a negative health impact for us. There’s no real rejoicing over this. Yes, there is a great environmental impact, but at the same time, it’s not an opportunity for everybody to say, okay, this was a great thing, it is not,” she declared.