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What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About the Environment

What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About the Environment

Along with the illness and economic devastation the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, many have hoped to find a silver lining: a cleaner, greener world.

A report from the International Energy Agency estimates that we’ll emit 8 percent less CO2 this year and use 6 percent less energy — that’s the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India, which is the world’s third largest energy consumer.

Carbon dioxide emissions have dropped in the wake of major world events in the past. After World War II, CO2 emissions dropped by 800 million tons. There were also notable drops after the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the recession in the late 2000s. Nothing recent, however, has rivaled the decrease we’ve seen this year.
While we all hope to leave the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus in the past, there are some lessons we’ve learned from the current situation that can help us move forward with an eco-friendlier mindset.

Telecommuting is possible for many workers. While working from home doesn’t work for every job, many companies have discovered that employees can still perform their essential duties without being in the office — an effective way to keep cars off the road. Check out our April newsletter for tips on how to be productive from home.

Virtual opportunities are nearly endless. Telemedicine, distance learning, Zoom happy hours — there’s more that can be accomplished via technology than ever before. While in-person doctor visits, physical classrooms, and face-to-face interaction will always have an important place in society, there’s plenty of untapped virtual potential.

It’s not too late to make big changes. Although the relationship between our actions and environmental impact is complicated by many factors, there’s evidence to show that some dramatic changes have occurred in a short amount of time, related to air and water quality, wildlife habitat, and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Now is the time to change our priorities. Air quality improved in China during the lockdowns, yet it’s already deteriorating as businesses begin to open back up. That’s because the country is leaning on dirty construction projects to restart the economy instead of ones that involve clean energy. Resetting priorities and changing the way things are done moving forward could alter the course of history.

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