by Amanda S.
If you’re one of the lucky few who can take walks and spend some time outdoors right now, you may have noticed fresher air and clearer skies.
With various mandates, city lockdowns and social distancing, there’s been a major reduction in industrial output and pollution.
After the first month of contained lock down in China (January 20th to February 25th), images from NASA showed an impressive drop in nitrogen dioxide, i.e. smog. The European Space Agency (ESA) noted a reduction in air pollution in Paris, Madrid, Milan, Brussels, and Frankfurt from March 5 to 25th. These benefits mainly come from reduced motor transit and factory outputs.
Los Angeles, known for its near constant layer of smog, had the clearest air of any major city in the world this past week! Reports from Seattle, San Francisco and New York have shown how reduced transit and operations can quickly affect air quality in a positive way.
The closure of the coastline areas and beaches is disappointing, but the hope is the reduction in crowds, even temporarily, can reduce the waste in our waters. You’ve probably seen the images of the Venice canals, finally looking like the clear waters from famous paintings, rather than the murky, trash-filled ripples they’ve turned into.
In the fashion industry, many designers, factories, and even home sewers have been using scrap fabrics, otherwise bound for landfills, to make protective cloth masks. Not only is this a movement of benevolence and need, but it repurposes excess materials that would otherwise have been swept into landfills.
Since we love animals here at Qeep Up, we’ve been following the movement and protection of wild animals during this crisis.
Coronavirus appears to have originated in wildlife markets in China, a terrible, commonplace practice that Qeep Up fights to raise awareness on. Chinese authorities have since banned the trade and consumption of wild animals—a major first step—though we don’t know how well this will be enforced. Unfortunately, this ban doesn’t cover the devastating trade of dogs and cats. The Humane Society International (HSI) estimates that 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are killed each year through trade. But there is hope: Shenzhen, a leading commercial city in China, is now furthering the ban to include dogs and cats, starting May 1st.
Across Thailand, there are hundreds of Thai elephant camps, marketed to tourists. Their government has enforced closures, leaving owners with the option to restore these majestic creatures to the life Mother Nature intended for them. At the Maesa elephant camp in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, the economic downturn prompted owners to release the jumbo elephants to roam freely across the property. Previously, the nearly 80 elephants had been forced to wear metal and wood “carriages” to give tourists rides, every day for 44 years. This liberation will be permanent, the owners saying they will alter their business model to be that of an observation sanctuary. “We will welcome tourists to enjoy learning about the elephants’ ways of life naturally instead of using them to entertain the tourists.”
Perhaps not as majestic as elephants roaming freely, many towns and cities around the world have seen an increase in wildlife visits. In the Welsh town of Llandudno, a dozen wild goats roamed the city center, prompting smiles and photos. Even in my own suburban US neighborhood, I’ve been so happy to see more creatures on my dog walks, including a rafter of wild turkeys (I counted 14!) and a herd of deer that visit our empty streets in the early morning hours.
We have to keep doing our part.
While these are all positive moments during a devastating time, the shift in our consumption patterns in quarantine is leading many cities and residents to backtrack on their recycling and waste efforts. Some cities are temporarily halting recycling programs. We find ourselves shipping many necessities we normally would pick up in stores, which results in much more packaging. While safety and protocol to protect the spread is paramount, we must make daily efforts to avoid throwing away single-use packaging when possible. In my household, we’re storing all our cardboard boxes and key recyclables until we can safely go back to the recycling centers.
Be well, find glimpses of your own silver linings, and take care of each other and Mother Earth by staying home and staying safe. Wash your hands!