The global COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the human population but, in many ways, it has also been a blessing in disguise for the environment. With countries all over the world in lockdown:

  • There are fewer cars on the roads, and almost no planes in the sky (resulting in reduced carbon, nitrous and noise emissions); even oil prices!
  • There has been a significant drop in air, soil, and water pollution due to humans being indoors; and some huge industries being paused on production.
  • Water quality has drastically improved due to reduced human interaction.
  • Waste management has been more localised due to reduced movements, even though the inevitable medical waste may have increased.

There are also countless species of wildlife that have started to “reclaim” cities. From herds of sika deer taking to the streets in Japan, to wild boar strolling through downtown Catalonia, and reports of a kudu in Pretoria central, there have been hundreds of videos swarming social media demonstrating how our planet and its other inhabitants are healing while we are locked away. This brings forth a troubling thought – is the world better off without humans? Are Covid-19 claimed deaths an advantage to the environment we rely on, to eventually save even more people?

The bottom line

The pandemic has forced us all to take a long, hard look at the way in which we have been treating the earth. The massive difference that can be seen in our planet’s wellbeing after just a few months of limited human activity is obvious, and it is high time that we all started making changes to the way in which we live our lives, both now and when lockdown is completely lifted.

How can we start treating the earth better?

Interestingly, celebrating the half century of Earth day since 1970; the theme on April 22nd called for “Climate Action”.  While we spend a lot of time with family, and focus on what we consider core priorities, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we can contribute to make our mother earth more sustainable. When life eventually returns to normal – and it will – every single individual should be considering how they can make positive changes going forward, and avoid “undoing” the progress made over the course of the last few months. The solution is simple: we all need to be striving to live more sustainably.  This means:

  • Using water sparingly;
  • Reducing unnecessary interaction with natural systems to allow their continued recovery for our benefit;
  • Avoiding single-use plastics;
  • Not littering;
  • Recycling and upcycling whatever you can;
  • Using eco-friendly products whenever possible;
  • Ensuring “greener” commuting (walk or ride a bike when you can, and if you must use a car, try to fill it up with passengers going to the same place as you);
  • Reducing meat consumption;
  • Reducing household energy use;
  • Eating locally and seasonally; and
  • Starting a garden – grow your own food and make your outdoor space bee-friendly.

If everyone does their bit with the same goal in mind, we can ensure that the human race as a whole treats the planet with higher levels of kindness and consideration. The power to bring about and maintain change lies in our hands. Let us use it wisely!