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Environmental Silver Linings During the Coronavirus Pandemic

sea turtle

Is Mother Nature giving us a time out? When we stay home, the environment benefits.

This Earth Day is unlike any other. There is immense suffering and overwhelming economic impacts from the current global pandemic. But, crises can also bring change, and we’re looking around and noticing less traffic, cleaner air and thriving wildlife. Here are our favorite environmental silver linings:

The Ocean is Quieter for Marine Life

A noisy ocean raises stress hormones for whales and other marine life. With fewer ships crisscrossing the ocean, ambient noise levels have been greatly reduced. North Pacific humpback whales will soon be swimming with their newborns near Alaska, a region usually popular with cruise ships. With reduced ship traffic, this season will be the quietest humpback wales have had in decades. We’re assuming that fewer vessels in the ocean also means there will be fewer strikes with whales, seals, sea lions and sea turtles. This is especially good news for the North Atlantic right whale, who’s habitat and migration routes are close to major ports and shipping lanes.

Sea Turtles are Thriving on Beaches

With many beaches closed around the world, there is less plastic waste, fewer people, and less artificial light shining on beaches from hotels and resorts. Hawksbill turtles in Brazil, green turtles in Costa Rica, olive ridley sea turtles in Mexico, and leatherback turtles in Florida are able to build nests without disruption while the beaches take a break from tourism. And later, when babies hatch, they’ll have a safer time making it to the ocean.

Cleaner Air is Saving Lives

As most of the world continues to stay home, the cumulative effect of fewer cars, busses, trucks and power plants leads to less nitrogen dioxide in the air. This common air pollutant can cause serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease and respirator illnesses, and can have a staggering effect on our lifespan. Due to the lockdown, cleaner air will likely save the lives of 4,000 children and 73,000 older adults in China during two months this year, says Stanford professor Marshall Burke.

India’s Cities See Clear Blue Skies

In March, India’s Prime Minister ordered the entire country on a three-week lockdown. Traffic is nonexistent, factories are closed and construction projects are on hold. As a result, pollution levels dropped to the lowest in a decade, and residents were able to see the snow-capped Himalayas, over 100 miles away. Many other cities around the world are reporting clearer skies, for now.

Our Behaviors Might Change for Good

This crisis has many rethinking their own behavior. People might be willing to forgo things they once thought were necessary, like long-distance travel for meetings and conferences. We’re gardening more, and purchasing food from local farmers and producers. We’re staying in our communities, sharing with our neighbors, and exercising outdoors. The lessons we’re learning from a global pandemic could be priceless in our fight to save the planet.