3 Sources of Hope for Nature Amidst Coronavirus
Written by: Caitlin
Published: 1st April 2020
With everything that is going on in the world right now, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. COVID-19 has already had a massive impact on humanity, not just in terms of our health, but also economically and socially. In these tough times it is important to focus on positives, and as passionate conservationists we are cheered to see signs of hope that nature could have a chance of recovering, if we can learn lessons from the current situation.
Around the world, we have seen strict lockdown rules and travel bans introduced. We know that this has not been easy for anyone, but seeing how nature has responded so far to the lack of human interaction has opened our eyes to how spectacular mother nature can be and how this could impact the planet in the long term.
We’re sure you have all seen images of dolphins swimming through what was claimed to be Venice’s canals, a story that has since been debunked, as these beautiful creatures were actually spotted in Sardinia almost 500 miles away. And although nature is unlikely to recover as quickly as these images may lead us to believe, there have been positive signs of change in the natural world that represent hope for nature:
Habitats Are Being Given the Chance to Recover
While the dolphins in Venetian canals may have been a stretch of the imagination, the ecosystems in the canals in Venice have been thriving in this time of relative quiet.
In a typical year, there are normally upwards of 20 million tourists visiting Venice. But with no large cruise ships, no stripe clad gondoliers powering their gondolas through the canals, and only a few locals stopping for a bite to eat at the Rialto market, the waters are now crystal clear.
Schools of fish can now be seen swimming through the city, and ducks and cormorants have returned to try their luck at catching them. Normally, all of the boat traffic through the waterways results in the muddy brown waters we are used to seeing photos of (or have seen in real life, if you’re lucky enough to have visited). However, the outbreak of the virus and subsequent lockdown in Italy has allowed the canal beds to settle and the underwater ecosystems to thrive.
Conservationists across the UK have also noticed a change in the behaviour of certain species. For example, oystercatchers were spotted nesting on usually busy beaches and moles were seen appearing above ground in search of worms near popular footpaths. These animals and birds are being given the chance to search for food, to breed, and to give birth in relative safety, where they will not be distressed, and this can only help these species grow and thrive.
Habitats around the world that are normally disturbed by human activity, are being given the chance to recover and replenish and that is an amazing sight!
A Drop in Pollution Levels
Perhaps the most obvious improvement is the drastic drop in levels of pollution throughout the world, due to planes being grounded and less cars on the roads. Readings from the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Sentinel-5P satellite highlight the dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), one of the main contributors to air pollution, which can cause respiratory problems for both humans and wildlife.
The decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels is directly linked to the decrease in pollutants from cars, planes, and other industries which have ground to a halt in recent weeks. You can see what the drop in pollution levels looks like in other countries, including the UK, here.
This is great news in terms of the climate crisis which has been front of mind for many across the globe, and is being referred to as the ‘largest-scale experiment ever seen’ by a Professor of Air Pollution at the University of Leicester, Paul Monks. Monks says that this recent behavioural change will allow us to see how the world will recover if we adopt a low-carbon economy, and will show how the pollution levels and air quality will improve if the world adapts.
An Appreciation of Nature and Behavioural Change
Covid-19 has turned life upside down for people across the globe, forcing behavioural change on a mass scale. What if we could learn from these behavioural changes in the long term?
Being in a state of lockdown has provided people with a fresh appreciation of being outdoors and the natural world around them. One consequence of lockdown is that a lot of children are being homeschooled, and parents are taking the opportunity to encourage kids to spend time in the garden and notice the nature around them, which we think is brilliant!
Residents of Venice also remarked that nature had returned to their city and that lockdown had provided an opportunity for reflection on the balance that they had struck between nature and tourism. This sentiment is amplified across social media where we are seeing people sharing images of hope for nature across the globe. Could this appreciation help us make changes?
With flights grounded and holiday plans halted, we are being forced to confront the amount we travel and the clear impact it has on air pollution and the natural world. We are already seeing an increase in people taking up cycling and running and finding new ways to safely explore their surrounding environments once a day. As we emerge from this crisis, perhaps new such hobbies and behaviours will not be lost and businesses and individuals alike will have a much greater awareness of the amount they are travelling.
One thing that is clear since the COVID-19 crisis began is how much we consume and waste. This neverending consumption leads to habitats being destroyed for both farming and landfill. Due to stock-piling and social distancing, we are seeing how much of this waste is completely unnecessary and unwittingly being taught to ration and make the best of what we have leftover. We are taking a leaf out of the ration book of generations before us and this can only be a positive learning for us to find more sustainable solutions in the long term.
Research shows that society is much better at making big behavioural interventions during periods of change. Perhaps this pandemic is holding up a mirror to our society in a way that will have a lasting positive impact on the way we treat the planet.
So there you have it, just some of the ways we are seeing hope for nature, proving that even during the ever-changing coronavirus pandemic, there is light in the world. Let us know if there are any other ways you’ve seen nature hitting its reset button that we haven’t mentioned. Just leave us a comment below or get in touch with us on our social media!
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