Climate Change In a Pandemic
The daunting truths about climate change became more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. Simultaneously people all around the world developed a new appreciation for nature and our planet, creating the hope for consistent environmental advocacy in our post-pandemic future.
Climate change is one of the most eminent issues our world is facing today. As the debate around climate change is evolving, people are narrowing down on the belief that we are living in the Anthropocene rather than the Holocene. This language change references to the immense effect humans have on the environment and its changes. I believe that living through the COVID-19 pandemic confirmed this for me and showed that humans are the primary cause of the rapid advancement towards resource depletion and rising temperatures.
During COVID - A new relationship with nature
There was a miraculous thing that happened once the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world and stopped most communities in their tracks. The third most dangerous enemy of the environment went to sleep...transportation. With most of the world on lockdown and increased international travel restrictions, almost no one was driving cars or flying planes. Both nature and humans had the opportunity to recover and regenerate as the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter was taken out of the everyday equation. All around the world greenhouse gas emissions dramatically dropped, even more than they did during other economic downfalls or World War II.
It was also noticed that Earth Overshoot Day 2020 was later in 2020 than 2019. Earth Overshoot Day is the calculated day of the year where humans consume more resources than can be naturally replenished in one year’s time. At the sound of this news we should be excited, we made it further into the year without sucking all of the resources from Mother Earth! Not too fast though, we only accomplished this milestone because the COVID-19 pandemic decreased our carbon footprint by 14.5%. In order to continue pushing back Earth Overshoot Day each year, we need to decrease our carbon footprint through action and design, not by a disaster. The overall takeaway is that we will not solve our climate crisis by just taking a timeout for a couple of months a year because the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are still out there. But, we now have some hope and are able to see the potential we have as a species to reverse climate change.
Not only was our air quality affected over the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown, but nature responded to the sudden decrease in human interaction. There are a variety of ways that natural ecosystems reacted to the change of pace during the lockdown, all relative to their dependence on humans. Unfortunately, urban animals that commonly rely on discarded trash on the streets or handouts from pedestrians suffered during the pandemic. Due to the intense domestication, they have gone through over the decades and the stripping of natural resources, they were unable to efficiently naturalize themselves again. On the other hand, many animal species felt freer due to the decrease in human traffic. For example, endangered sea turtles were able to make their dash from the beaches to the water more easily without human interference and whales were able to swim around where shipping traffic and noise pollution once dominated. Overall, we have learned from the variety of natural responses to humans going into a lockdown that humans are too involved. In order to generate a healthier relationship with nature, humans need to encourage and conserve biodiversity globally.
Human behavior was also greatly affected by the lockdown protocols across the world. People were able to slow down for the first time in a long time and were able to reconnect themselves with nature. People had the opportunity to figure out what really served them, and many people found mother nature to be one of their answers. All across the world, people started going on more hikes, walks, and runs because in these uncertain times a consistent entity was their environment to nurture them. How I see it people were able to reconnect with nature which awakened a new sense of love and compassion for our planet. I think COVID gifted us the chance to really remember how nature was there to support all of humanity through such tremendously hard times. Now we need to continue remembering and pay the planet back by respecting, loving, and protecting it even when we are not in pain.
COVID allowed me to take even more steps into becoming the environmentalist I am constantly evolving into. For the first time ever I had time to truly invest in my environmental passions; I went to climate change and environmental panels, talks, and webinars just for fun and was able to enrich my eternally learning soul! I even joined The Green Program (TGP) which provides students with environmental abroad experiences and a lifelong sustainable network. I would have never found TGP if it weren’t for COVID because I finally had time to attend local ~virtual~ events during earth week, which is where I found the program! I also was able to be trained to be a Climate Reality Leader because they held their first virtual training, allowing their number of leaders to almost double! At my home in Newtown, Bucks County, PA I was able to walk around my neighboring state park, blissfully enjoy the wilderness of my backyard, and chase sunsets all around my town! I found the beauty in the small things again and I am now working on continuing that peace in my life even as things are speeding up again.
I saw many changes once arriving back on Haverford’s campus as well. I walked around the nature trail more times in the last semester than I have in the previous last 3 years at Haverford. I realized the importance of not wasting the beauty that I am so lucky to live in, but rather appreciate the landscape all around me! There is so much of this campus to explore that I think not everyone is aware of, but I know COVID has changed that.
Due to COVID, people had the time to reconnect with, learn about, and appreciate nature. I think people are more aware now of the daunting presence of climate change and are ready to take more action. Now people must not forget about how mother nature cared for them during COVID as life moves back towards “normal”. Since people got a sense of what a flourishing environment can do for one’s soul, I hope they will continue fighting for those green spaces after the pandemic is over.