Not all doom and gloom for the environment after all
Although life as we know it has come to a sudden halt, it’s not all doom and gloom for the environment. There’s blue skies over Delhi, India, and the ocean water is getting clearer. Could the lockdown be a blessing in disguise for the planet and its inhibitors?
It’s not business as usual for major polluters such as the oil industry and airlines, and carbon emissions are falling fast. Air pollution kills around 4.2 million people worldwide each year. It can easily penetrate the human respiratory system, causing lung and cardiovascular diseases or aggravated respiratory illness. Beijing regularly exceeds 10 times the World Health Organisation recommended levels, but has seen a drop this year. Two months of 10ug/m3 reductions in pollutants of less than 2.5micrometers likely has saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of five and 73,000 adults over 70 years old in China. In fact, a study from Stanford University suggests that 20 times more lives may be saved in reduced air pollution deaths than the lives lost to COVID-19.
Trees are like the “lungs” of an ecosystem because they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Air pollution directly harms trees by damaging its living tissue and foliage. It diminishes the photosynthesis process and the ability to respirate. Air pollutants weaken trees, and also predisposes them to further damage by insects and soil erosion. The industry shut-downs are potentially saving trees.
It’s been reported that wild animals are roaming the streets in locked-down cities. We have also seen a drastic decline in the toll for roadkill by vehicles. The UK alone, annually takes the lives of about 30,000 deer, 50,000 badgers, 100,000 hedgehogs and 100,000 foxes, other species include birds and insects. We are even starting to see the much-needed revival of the wild bee. The bee population has been drastically decreasing around the world due to habitat loss, pollution and the use of pesticides. Bees are our main pollinators, they pollinate a third of the food that we eat as well as 80% of flowering plants. Pollination is important because many of our fruits, vegetables, and the crops that feed our livestock depend on it to be fertilised, so without it, we could be doomed.
Oil is the biggest source of the carbon emissions that are heating the planet and disrupting weather systems. The reduction in emissions of CO2 due to limited modes of transportation has been one of the reasons we’ve seen a decrease in our carbon footprints. China, Italy, Germany, the UK are experiencing falls in carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide of as much as 40%. This is leading to the improvement of great quality air. Greenhouse gas levels have also seen a decline. The United Nations released a report showing that the world has seen an average of a 6% drop in greenhouse gases amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline is due to lockdowns and industry shutdowns.
In addition we have seen a decrease in the demand for electricity this year. The data shows a visible decrease from the start of the lockdown period. The University of Cape Town has reported a decrease of more than 50% when it comes to electricity and water consumption. Eskom has seen a national electricity demand decline of between 7500MW and 9000MW.
This has allowed Eskom to operate without implementing load shedding and they have also decreased their coal usage. The city of Cape Town has reported relatively low water consumption, the latest average dam level for the Western Cape is 37.2% while in 2019 it was 34.2%. The dams providing water to the City of Cape Town are at a combined 54.5% levels, this is an annual increase from 45.8%.These are just a few examples of how the lockdown has had positive effects on the environment.
Essentially, what will determine whether this pandemic is good or bad for the environment is not dependent on Covid-19, but on humanity. We could potentially see long-lasting positive environmental change for the first time. But what will sustain it is how we move on after the pandemic.
Perhaps you’ve considered during the period of lockdown that it would be a wise idea to add more trees to your environment. We have a wide variety, suitable for all landscapes. Get in touch with us at www.justtress.co.za today to find out more.