Words like quarantine, isolation, index cases, social distancing, face masks, sanitizers and lockdown are terms we now hear regularly. This is all thanks to the novel Corona Virus global pandemic (COVID-19). The effects of this pandemic have been nothing short of devastating. Stocks are crashing, people are dying and it is as though the world is on stand still. This article does not focus on the virus but on its effect on the environment. There are basically two sides to take on this issue. Some people see it as the planet healing while others see it as a potential threat to the world. I will not be passing any judgment or taking sides but will simply put out the different sides to this issue. Below are some of the effects of COVID-19 on the environment.
Reduction in green house gases and other forms of pollution: Due to close down of industries, there is a significant reduction in emission of green house gases and toxic tiny particles. Reports have it that rivers and lakes are now clearer than before; some people also claim that the skies are so clear that they can even see the Himalayan mountains because the world is not spewing carbon as it used to. Another school of thought states that decreasing Green House Gases (GHGs) during a short period is not a sustainable way to clean up our environment. They argue that when the lockdown is lifted and we return to our daily activities, so will the pollution and greenhouse gas that fuels global warming. Although, climate experts predict that Green House Gas emissions could drop to proportions never seen since the 2nd World War (Global Carbon Project, 2020).
Reduction in waste production and disposal: There is no doubt that industrial waste production has reduced to a large extent. The virus seems to be saving the environment from the ills of some manufacturing industries. However, there is an undeniable increase in medical waste since priority revolves around people’s health. Single use medical equipments are now the most common type of waste. There is also a corresponding increase in organic waste and as such methane emission is not expected to change since food waste still ends up in landfills. The “stay at home orders” enacted by the government to restrict movement and transmission of COVID-19 has also affected waste disposal and recycling since waste management companies are also on lockdown.
This is not a debate about the virus being good or bad. Disasters teach unforgettable lessons. The point is to learn from the pandemic and adjust our lifestyles to one that will not harm our physical environment. It is more like an opportunity to reflect on our relationship with mother earth. Use it wisely!