OVID-19 and its impacts — namely shelter-in-place — have proved disastrous in a wide variety of ways. People are losing their loved ones, healthcare systems are collapsing and economies are struggling.
Despite all this, one undeniable benefit has emerged: the environment is recovering. Many factories have shut down, decreasing air pollution and drastically improving the air quality in countries such as China. Similarily, Spain, France, Belgium and Germany all saw a fall in nitrous oxide levels (a chemical that depletes the ozone layer), and countries from Japan to the U.S. saw an increase in animal migration.
The price we have paid for this temporary environmental recovery is astronomical, but shelter-in-place has presented us with an incredible opportunity — an opportunity to do better for our environment. COVID-19 has given us a chance to press pause, catch a breather and hit the ground running for environmental change.
Starting this Earth Day, let’s start fresh; let’s all do our part in keeping our environment in a healthier condition.
The changes don’t have to be drastic, but we can all contribute. We can walk, skateboard or bike rather than driving. We can pick up and throw away the random cookie wrappers on the sidewalk (especially now that we all carry extra hand sanitizer). We can compost our failed baking attempts, invest in those edgy reusable boba straws, eat less meat (Tofurkey is not bad, I promise) and time our showers.
Beyond these minor adjustments, there are countless ways we can contribute to the cause. Several MVHS students have created a petition “calling on [the school district board] to make changes such as implementing Meatless Mondays and switching our plastic cutlery to biodegradable cutlery in our district.” Other websites and organizations, such as www.earthday.org or the Tech Museum are hosting digital events in which they enable people to support the call for climate action through webinars, petitions and volunteer events. It takes no more than a few minutes to sign the petition or visit their websites — so do your part.
Earth is in a better place right now, but environmentalists fear that this progress will quickly be erased as countries try to restart their economies by any means possible, possibly removing or lightening environmental regulations in the process. President Trump, who has repeatedly demonstrated that climate action could not be less of a priority, has already loosened regulations regarding automobile emission and the release of toxic chemicals such as mercury.
We cannot allow this to happen. Especially as students, we have to take charge of what type of planet and environment we want to live in for the rest of our lives. If there is anything COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that our actions can make a huge difference. With just a few months of shelter-in-place, our planet is doing drastically better. If we start now, this Earth Day, there’s no limit to how much we can achieve for our planet.