What COVID-19 has taught us about how we treat the environment

Updated: Apr 2

The latest pandemic reveals the deep impact upon our planet and the environment that people create.

By Cassandra Nava, Staff Writer


The coronavirus has proved that the silver lining to staying quarantined indoors results in the environment slowly recovering, despite wreaking havoc throughout the world.


The coronavirus has stopped many from living their normal lives, with state officials around the world calling for self isolation, social distancing and quarantining at home. Non-essential flights have been cancelled to stop the global and domestic spread of the virus. Due to “Safer at Home” and “Shelter in Place” orders, residents have been forced out of work, staying away from most forms of vehicular transportation, resulting in decreased air pollution in countries most affected by the virus.


“The outbreak has, at least in part, contributed to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in some countries,” according to NBC News. “Although grim, it's something scientists said could offer tough lessons for how to prepare — and ideally avoid — the most destructive impacts of climate change.”


California has long suffered with smog and air quality, especially Los Angeles, according to the American Lung Association’s list of most polluted cities. Living in a city with more air pollution can weaken a person’s lungs, making them more susceptible to catching— and not recovering— from the coronavirus, according to the Los Angeles Times. The air pollution in Los Angeles has seen a decline recently, but the effects of daily smog could have already done damage to many Angeleno’s lungs.


COVID -19 causes respiratory issues resulting in coughing, shortness of breath, and overall damage to the lungs. In some cases, coronavirus can lead to pneumonia, creating infections in either one or both lungs, according to Medical News Today.


In a recent study from NASA, China — the initial location of the outbreak — has seen a drop in nitrogen dioxide levels and overall emissions. Due to constant coal production, China is the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter, a greenhouse gas that can cause global warming and climate change. The air pollution in China has caused many residents to suffer lung diseases, and this is especially important when taking into account that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness.


“Air pollution is estimated to contribute to more than 1 million premature deaths in China each year,” according to NPR. “Fine particle pollution, also known as PM 2.5, can enter the bloodstream through the lungs and has been linked to asthma attacks, heart attacks and respiratory problems.”


Italy, another country drastically affected by the coronavirus, has seen clearer water in the famous Venice canals, due to less boat use and tourism. According to CNN, the clear waterways are not a result of less pollution, but a result of less boat traffic disrupting the natural sediment of the canals.


“It’s a good sign that our ecosystems are somewhat resilient if we don’t completely destroy them,” said Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and founder of the Pacific Institute in Berkeley, California, in an interview with CNBC. “But it would be nice if we could improve our environment without having to cripple our economy.”

The Valley Star 

Los Angeles Valley College

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