The aftermath of COVID-19 and its impact on earth

In these past couple of years, we have suffered a substantial global crisis, and we had to come together to find the best possible solutions to survive. We had an unprecedented challenge that threatened to break the World as we know it, so we fought together, slowly coming out as the winning side. Or are we not?
We felt the struggle of covid-19 impacting the population, but what impact did it have on the environment? At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much speculation on the positive effect that covid-19 had on global pollution, especially in big cities. We saw the change when everything came to a stop. There was no traffic in central London, less transportation available, and we had a beautiful blue sky compared to the grey smoke that we were so accustomed to seeing. Many wildlife sightings in cities like Venice and other unexpected places were due to the absence of marine traffic.
We could walk, run or ride bikes around the City centres feeling almost like in the countryside, suddenly restored. We breathed fresh air with no smog from cars or buses, resulting in black stains around the nostrils.
In the middle of the pandemic, we seemed to find a way to repair some of the damage done. It appeared that being restrained at home had impacted people to do better and be more cautious about their actions. However, did Covid-19 positively impact the planet? Moreover, if it did, how can we follow up now that we are back in motion?
We are now 7.9 billion people in the World as of January 2022. How many masks did we use, change and throw away? If we reflect on the medical waste we endured during these years, starting from 2019, the number of single-use face coverings we all had to wear is astonishing. Recent studies from the University of Denmark have estimated that we use 129 billion face masks every month, which is 3million a minute (Birgitte Svennevig, 2021). Suppose we consider the Personal Protective Equipment used by medical care, like gloves and shoes, which unfortunately are made from material hardly decomposable in nature, the numbers increase. If not disposed of in the right way, all this material used for health reasons will cause hardship to the planet, resulting in waste in our oceans and land fields. The chemical production that was negatively affected by the pandemic in 2020, in Europe €499,1 billion, 6,4% below the previous year, had a sudden increase in 2021, in Europe €582,9 billion, 16.8%, (Dr Moncef HADHRI, Maiju Huhtaniska 2021) to supply the rising demands for businesses and health carers. These chemicals usually come in rigid plastic containers that must be recycled accordingly as the plastic is most likely hard to decompose.
Recent studies have also suggested that global warming, causing the melting of the glaciers, will increase the spread of ancient viruses trapped in the ice for millions of years. Also, the ice melting contributes to the migration of species in territories now warm enough, affecting the carrying of new diseases, which will inevitably spread.
The initial relief for the environment seems just an apparent illusion because, in reality, we had much more facts at stake that influenced the environmental degradation of the planet.
England aims to achieve Net Zero greenhouses by 2050, where the Co2 emissions are meant to be removed from the atmosphere. Thanks to a rapid change of policies and commitment in many sectors, scientists will focus on the linked reactions of global warming and how to change their impact.
We can all contribute to recycling and being more mindful, even and especially during a pandemic, supporting the change.

Eleonora Venturini, BA (Hons) Creative Writing and English Literature


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