By Faranak Bakhtiari

Earth Day 2020: nature is a beneficiary of coronavirus

April 21, 2020 - 16:58

TEHRAN – Human beings have put too much pressure on the Earth causing irreparable damage, however, with the onset of coronavirus outbreak, the planet seemed to prosper and relive the burden which was unprecedented over the past 50 years when the first Earth Day celebrated.

The planet is looking uninhabited these days as people across the world are sheltering in place and avoiding social gatherings to contain the spread of the virus.

The first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, which has now spread to more than 210 countries, infecting nearly 2,495,296 people and killing more than 171,064. With large gatherings prohibited, businesses shut down and governments around the world ordering citizens to "stay at home," the Earth has become so quiet and isolated but feeling much better.

This year, as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day, the entire Earth is at its best condition in half a century, Mohammad Darvish, a member of the National Security Council for the environment, said.

Referring to the outbreak’s effect on the spread of the pollutants throughout the world, he noted that over the past two months, most people around the world have experienced unprecedented shocks, and for the first time in a row, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, air, land and water traffic have dropped dramatically.

All of this has led to greenhouse gas emissions in March 2020 being the same as in the 1990s, 30 years ago, and this shows how much people's lifestyles are at odds with what they call “global resilience,” he highlighted.

The declining human traffic in nature and the outdoor environment has significantly reduced the amount of noise pollution and earthquakes produced on Earth, making it easier for geologists to study the Earth's outer crusts, he also noted.

He went on to say that about 3.5 billion people on the planet travel by train, car, plane, ship and other means of transportation every day. These movements and construction activities, mines and others are putting pressure on the Earth's outer crust, but now, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, almost all of these operations and activities in the world have stopped. 

As a result, there is no human-caused quake, and geologists can more easily engage in geological activities and studies, he added.

Effect of coronavirus on ozone layer 

The most important component that caused the ozone layer to perforate was the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases, which were used in refrigerators and sprays. Fortunately, these gases have not been used for many years, which is why the ozone layer has been repairing for more than a decade, Darvish stated.

The Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention, which recognizes the responsibility of countries to repair the ozone layer and has been one of the most successful environmental conventions, has saved the ozone layer, he also highlighted.

There are reports that the movement of satellites, aircraft, missiles and such activities could also affect the ozone layer, some of which have naturally declined sharply over the past two months, he said, adding, If the ozone layer did not get better over this period, it would continue with the same positive routine.

Biodiversity improves 

Pointing to the pandemic impact on wildlife, he stated that due to declining human presence in natural areas and habitats, living conditions of wildlife have improved dramatically.

He noted that the wildlife population of many countries has declined by 29 to 40 percent over the past decade; but in the wake of the epidemic, improvement and a consequent increase in wildlife populations indicates, which are considered positive.

One of the reasons for wildfires in rangeland and forests was camping and the presence of tourists in natural habitats, but now with the cessation of the tourism industry in most parts of the world, has sharply decreased, he also said.

‘On the other hand, we are facing an increase in the smuggling of wood by local communities, as earning income is much more difficult these days, due to the halt of the tourism industry and local businesses,” he lamented, adding, coal mining and illegal poaching is rising these days, which are extremely worrying.

Why human absence prospers nature?

Pointing out that protecting the planet is important to humans, and we need to maintain the best conditions on Earth after Coronavirus, he said that the pandemic has caused the earth to breathe deeply, and now the wise man is faced with the question that “why, when human activity as a member of the ecosystem decreases, not only does nothing happen, but the condition of nature improves.”

Think of bees being removed from nature. In this case, the integrity of the Earth's environmental property, the reproduction of many species and humans themselves will be damaged, or if brown bears are removed, soil fertility will decrease, or if wild boars are removed, water permeability will decrease and floods will increase., he explained.

Therefore, there have been wise in the creation of all plant and animal species or even insects, and have contributed to the earth's resilience, he emphasized.

Why has it now happened that man, who considers himself the best of creatures, that must be more responsible, has behaved in such a way that his absence is in favor of nature and the earth? 

I hope that such happening gives up a lesson to change our development programs in favor of nature and try to understand the laws of nature, instead of spending budgets on warfare, larger and more horrific weapons, he noted, implying that environmental research and health is now more essential as well as improvement of the education system so that in the post-corona crisis world we can appear wiser, more knowledgeable, and more responsible.

World Earth Day 2020

The first Earth Day took place in 1970. Outraged by oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers, 20 million people took to the streets, protesting what they recognized as an environmental crisis. It was the planet’s largest civic event at the time and compelled governments to take concrete actions, including passing environmental laws and establishing environmental agencies. In addition to these practical outcomes, the event demonstrated just how much can be achieved when people come together and demand action.

Selecting climate action as its theme, Earth Day 2020 was already poised to be a historic event. An occasion planned to bring people physically together across a series of events, COVID-19 has now prompted a dramatic shift to completely digital and virtual platforms.

Earth Day 2020 calls for 24 hours of actions, big and small, for people and the planet. On this 50th anniversary, civil society organizers hope to fill the world’s digital landscape with global conversations, positive acts, performances, webinars and events supporting urgent action on climate change.

As the world rushes to plan for a post-pandemic recovery, UNEP and other parts of the United Nations system see this as an opportunity to call attention to the need to “build back better.” The risks faced by ignoring the threats of environmental destruction must be understood and addressed with protections and policies. April 22 is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities of the natural world for green jobs, sustainable economic stimulus, for urgently taking action to protect ourselves against unsurvivable global heating and for securing healthy, dignified futures.

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