In a matter of months, the world has changed. Only a severe and merciless threat like COVID-19, an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, could have led to such a profound change at such an alarmingly rapid rate. Although there have been many global deaths, stalled economic activities, and extensive travel restrictions, we should start focusing on the positive impacts from this pandemic. Quarantine has allowed us to reassess our priorities, improve our personal relationships, reshape our future by being advantageous of telecommuting, increase awareness of hygiene, while also reducing carbon emissions, contributing to brighter and bluer skies. COVID-19 has taken a dismal worldwide cost in lives, health services, jobs, and mental health. If anything, it has demonstrated the one lesson that communities can make when they look out for each other: dealing with climate change.
Although the pandemic may have us looking bleakly at life, there are a number of notes that shine through brightly. For example, with COVID-19 suspending economic activity in most parts of the world and people working from home, traffic has plummeted. Since traffic has decreased drastically, this denotes that pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across many continents, as countries have tried to contain the spread of this virus. According to NASA satellites, the scientists have documented significant reductions in air pollution—20-30% in many cases and in major cities around the world. For instance, “In China, emissions have fallen 25% at the start of the year when people were instructed to stay at home and the proportion of ‘good quality air’ was up by 11.4% compared with the same time last year in 337 cities across China, according to its Ministry of Ecology and Environment” (Henriques 4). The question remains that when this global pandemic eventually subsides, will carbon and pollutant emissions return to their original, contaminated state? While a definite answer remains uncertain, there is no telling how lasting this unprecedented drop in emissions will be. No one knows for certain if the effects are persistent, but we know for sure that for the duration of reduced travel during the pandemic, these emissions will stay lowered. In terms of routine trips like commuting, those miles left untraveled during the pandemic are not going to come back.
Fig. 1. Mabel Amber. Tree Top Branches Foliage. 2018. JPG.
Now, this pandemic that has been keeping us contained in our homes for months is already reorienting our relationship with family as well as providing a renewed appreciation for the outdoors and the simple pleasures of life. Before COVID-19, we were all so very occupied living the average routine, that many of us had lost those real, genuine moments we had with our loved ones. This could have included the busy schedules, running around to complete errands, and rushing into urgent meetings. Sure, maybe you were lucky enough to go for family vacations every now and then. However even then, didn’t you dread those pending files waiting at your workstation, or perhaps the loads of schoolwork awaiting you at home? Quarantine has positively impacted the way we emote and maintain relationships. We are now able to spend more time with our family and plan our work efficiently. Even though life has slowed down, we have found ways to stay connected with people like our family and friends, even if it is virtually.
Furthermore, while most of the impacts we’ve been seeing were negative, even catastrophic, we have witnessed a few needed and long-awaited modifications that have been extended as a byproduct of our reaction to this worldwide pandemic. Some of these changes, especially with respect to the use of technology, will most likely reshape our future. In response to the shut-down of business offices, social distancing, quarantine, no visitation, restrained socialization opportunities, and net connectivity, all of a sudden, is now the most safest way to have meetings, conduct business, and maintain a few components of the economic system running! Of course, that was not a stretch for most companies in the statistics and technology economic system sectors. But at some point in this pandemic, even the maximum telecommuting sectors and businesses find themselves having to embrace this feature to preserve some wheels turning.
Finally, since times have changed, people are now aware of how important it is to keep themselves clean. Proper hygiene is not just a good habit, but also an essential skill needed for survival in these recent times. From shaking hands to namaste, we all have had a lifestyle change for the better. We are going to consciously cover our mouths when we cough and sanitize our hands after touching anything else because if we do not, we know the dangerous consequences that may follow. In addition, cloth face coverings have been recommended due to their low cost and ready availability. Using cloth face coverings preserves surgical masks and N-95 masks for healthcare workers who may be involved in direct care of patients with COVID-19. If you wear a face covering to protect yourself from others, then you can dramatically decrease the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. This, in conjunction with social distancing and frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, will be important in limiting the spread of COVID-19 as we return to our usual activities.
Fig. 2. Polina Tankilevitch. Washing Hands. JPG.
To conclude, the extensive effects of COVID-19 lockdowns on air quality, our priorities, relationships, hygiene and the use of technology are potentially positive outcomes of this pandemic, even if it may be temporary. The automobile emissions over China, Western Europe, the United States, and many other countries have drastically fallen due to lockdown measures. We have built more genuine relationships with our loved ones, and our lifestyle habits have changed for the better. Also, in a very short time span, the pandemic has shown us that telecommuting and distance learning are all viable, efficient, and cost-effective options. Although it is easy to lose our hopes and contemplate over all the negative side effects of any event, it is significant to normalize our emotions, as we are currently battling a hard and long global pandemic. We are a race of survivors, and there will be a different world that will be waiting for us. From now on, let’s look forward and center our attention on the brighter side of this conflict. We will all get through this together by staying physically distant, but also socially connected.
This is my first published article that I have created as a Global Awareness Challenge Ambassador. I wrote this article because we have already seen many articles about how deadly COVID is (which it is, not saying that it isn’t) and how we can prevent from getting it, but that is just making everyone more concerned and apprehensive. Yes, there will always be more cons than pros from this global issue but it could be a relief to some people that there are good outcomes from the bad. For this reason, I am educating all that there is more to this global pandemic by participating in the EmpowerAndHelp Global Awareness Challenge. Please share with your community and join #EmpowerAndHelpGlobal Challenge. Be the change you want to see! Can you make a difference in our world?
[By Khushi Gupta, is Global Awareness Ambassador from New Jersey]