COVID-19: A BRIEF WINTER OF NATURE'S GRIEF


Arpita Agarwal and Vaibhav Aggarwal First year, B.Com (H),Shaheed Bhagat Singh College & Shaheed Bhagat Singh (Evening)


The assumed near arrest of COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent onset of normal life is sowing seeds for the growing concerns pertaining to the recovery of environment as a whole. The unforeseen disease has spread around intractably affecting people all over the globe. While most of the economic and social activities were interdicted, both voluntary and imposed self-isolation and quarantine practices lead to a constructive contribution towards the said recuperation. This had a profound impact on the global utilization of transportation services thereby resulting in the immense reduction in the fuel usage and environmental pollution. The substantial decrease in the industrial pollution as a consequence of the shutting down of the factories, hence the reduced emissions, is held to be the major cause of the improved quality of air and water. For instance, the NO2 contents substantially decreased on an average by 40 and 20–38% over Chinese cities and Western Europe/United States of America related to the same period in 2019. The NASA Earth Observatory (2020) recorded 6% reductions in NO2 content globally. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicated slight decreases in nitrates and improvements in dissolved oxygen in the river Ganga, and similar improvements in the biological, chemical and oxygen demand indicators in the river Yamuna. However, the changes were predominantly attributable to the lack of industrial and agricultural activity.


There is an intricate link between the animals and infectious diseases pertaining to humans. For instance, Zoonoses – diseases transmitted from other animal species to humans – account for approximately 60% of all infectious diseases and 75% of emerging infectious diseases in humans. The new flush of flora and fauna because of the negligible anthropogenic pressure during the pandemic led to the restoration of wildlife. Dramatic reductions in both local and international travel will likely lead to subsequent reductions in invasive species, which are considered one of the most significant drivers of freshwater biodiversity decline, transport associated with pathways such as ballast water exchange, air transportation, the movement of fresh foods, and recreational activities, among others. For example, significant decreases in trade demand have led to reductions in shipping traffic among all global ports. During the pandemic, global lockdowns and temporary closures of many industries have potentially reduced discharge of nutrients, heavy metals, and other chemicals to water bodies thereby effectively taking part in the rebuilding of the biodiversity long lost in the pre-covid period.


While acknowledging the overall positive implications of the pandemic on the environment, what draws a dilapidated attention is the fact that these eye-catching and soothing effects were short-lived and the said reductions have been obtained at the cost of thousands of deaths, adverse effects on people’s physical and mental health, economic stagnation, and an overall gloomy future due to the novel COVID-19. The negative effects of the pandemic did not hesitate in catching hold of the environment either.


The global renewable and sustainable energy scenario, which has burgeoned in the recent decades and was enjoying extensive widening, has encountered a fatal trial as a result of the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus has struck the renewable energy manufacturing facilities, supply chains, and companies and slowed down the transition to the renewables. The high sensitivity of nations to the energy cost will compel their governments to adopt cheaper. Many USDA Forest Services employees are gradually shifting from the concept of ‘fire seasons’ to ‘fire year’ as wildfire has transmuted into year-round phenomenon for much of the United States. What was once a four-month fire season now lasts for 6-8 months. Aggravating the conditions are the extended drought seasons, increased tree mortality and invasive species such as cheat grass that permit fire to ignite and spread readily. The high sensitivity conventional energy sources instead of renewable energy, which would be atrocious for global climate policy. For example, a US$8 million project aimed at stopping the spread of invasive Asian carp in Michigan, USA, was vetoed in order to support the state's response to COVID-19 instead. For more than two years, the medical and scientific attention has been shifted to the virus and vaccination leaving behind the developments with regards to the protection of the environment. Stockpiling due to poor disposal of this medical waste generated, has posed a major threat to public health and the environment. In some countries like Brazil, deforestation has hit a 23-year high as traditional guardians of the Amazon have been weakened with the Xavante and Yanomami indigenous groups being strongly impacted by the disease, and lockdown keeping forest rangers at home. Meanwhile, land grabbers, fire starters and illegal miners have been busier than ever.


The potential rampant dumping, open burning and incineration have taken their toll by affecting the air quality and compromising with our health due to the exposure to toxins. The internet that we know offered a plethora of advantages during these years but researchers have found out that a normal email contains about 4g of Carbon footprint - the amount of greenhouse gasses produced to send an email- which is a cause of concern for the environment. In addition, A Harvard University physicist had found that ‘’Twenty milligrams of Carbon Dioxide is emitted every second when a person browses any simple website.”


Nothing beautiful comes without its fair share of challenges; therefore, the negatives are not capable of dampening the intensity of the positives and vice versa.


On a concluding note, it can be stated that Covid-19 acted as a convalescence for the environment. This recovery is an indicator that the degradation caused by the humankind is reversible if genuine consciousness is inculcated in our lifestyles. It becomes vital for the humankind to accept that the short-lived sudden bursts of healing periods are not adequate for the biosphere to prosper and mitigation of the threats to its existence depends upon the interconnectedness of the ecosystem which makes it the need of the hour to undertake small yet significant revolutions on part of all of us. Although it is too early to judge how profound the negative and the positive effects of the pandemic on the ecosystem will be; we, together, can ensure that green recovery grows into a permanent state of affairs by restructuring energy and climate policies based on the new circumstances.


References:


Hosseini, Seyed Ehsan. "An outlook on the global development of renewable and sustainable energy at the time of COVID-19." EnergyResearch&SocialScience68 (2020): 101633.


Sarkodie, Samuel Asumadu, and Phebe Asantewaa Owusu. “Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on waste management.” Environment,developmentandsustainability, 1-10. 26 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1007/s10668- 020-00956-y

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