Environment Finds the Silver Lining of Us Sheltering in Place

Although it’s not easy to speak in terms of “silver lining” while so many people are suffering during the Coronavirus Pandemic, the need to share hopeful news is perhaps greater now than ever before. In addition to the fact that more people are surviving COVID-19 than succumbing and that the healthcare industry is actively exploring a wealth of ways to fight the virus, we see a great deal of hope and good news coming out of the natural world. With so many of us the world over having sheltered-in-place for weeks, the environmental impacts of fewer cars on the roads is wide-reaching.

  • Satellite readings over China and Italy – two of the first countries hit by the pandemic – have shown a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution levels. NASA reports that China’s quarantine halted more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 emissions have been linked to respiratory illness, asthma, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and even lung cancer. Stanford University researcher Marshall Burke calculated that, between January and February, China’s reduction in emissions could save as many as 77,000 lives – roughly 20 times the number of people who died from COVID-19 during that time.
  • Here in the U.S. – air quality has improved in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, among others where mass quarantines are in place.
  • Air quality isn’t the only improvement. Water quality appears to be improving, as well. From a visible standpoint, that is perhaps most apparent in the canals of Venice. Often choked with diesel-powered boat traffic, the canals are crystal clear – making the fish within visible and prompting increased sightings of swans in these waters. The same holds true for other canal cities in Italy -such as Sardinia, where dolphins have been seen frolicking in their waters.
  • Wild animals are venturing out in cities where people are sheltering in place. Videos are regularly popping up on social media of wild boar in the streets in Italy and France, entire herds of deer in Japan and the U.K., mountains goats in Wales, coyotes in San Francisco and even a gator strolling through a shopping center in Myrtle Beach.

Another positive that could have lasting effects that extend beyond the recent lift of the quarantine in select states is that many companies that didn’t previously provide telecommuting platforms for their employees are finding true value in working remotely. Should they elect to continue to allow their employees to telecommute even one to two days a week, can you imagine the positive impact that would have on air quality and reducing the number of cars on the road at rush hour?

Now that the stay in place order has lifted, you can continue to have a positive impact on the environment right here in Gwinnett County. From beautifying your corner of the world by planting trees and flowers in your yard to starting a compost pile to learning the items that go in your recycling bin for curbside pickup, you’ll be doing your part to keep Gwinnett clean and beautiful. Once the pandemic has come to an end and the world begins to return to a “new normal,” we hope you will take advantage of all that this beautiful community has to offer its citizens – an award-winning park system, terrific local events, an amazing network of local small businesses and so much more! Until then, stay safe and stay well, Gwinnett!