There are no two ways about it: COVID-19 is a global disaster. It has impacted human health, livelihoods and the economy. Its impacts can be felt around the world, it has changed the very nature of “normal” life, and these changes will be felt for years to come.
COVID-19 and the environment – A (tarnished) silver lining
During such dark times, it’s important to seek out good news to keep our spirits high. One piece of good news is related to the environment. Wildlife has been thriving, from the mountain goats of Llandudno, Wales to our very own local birds. Waste has been reduced as manufacturing and purchasing have decreased. Globally and locally, CO2 emissions have plummeted.
Maintaining the environment post COVID-19
While this is good news and a cause for celebration in the short term, experts suggest that maintaining the environment in a post-COVID-19 world will be tricky. For example, the Spinoff points out that maintaining social distancing on public transportation will be nearly impossible. And as the economy recovers, there will be an uptick in growth, resource use and emissions as people return to work. There may also be an increase in environmental gaslighting. Companies that may have previously been concerned about environmental issues may reverse their stance in the name of profit, using advertising, “unbiased” content and other gaslighting tactics to promote economic growth over sustainability and the environment.
However, there are also a lot of environmental benefits that can be maintained in a post-COVID-19 world. As New Zealand’s Dr James Every-Palmer QC pointed out in his uplifting article in Stuff, our fiscal response to this crisis presents a unique opportunity to move our economy towards an environmentally sustainable, zero-carbon future. By designing stimulus packages with the environment in mind, New Zealand stands to create opportunities for immediate recovery while safeguarding against insidious future crises related to climate change.
Positive change starts with you
It’s not only the government that has the opportunity to kickstart lasting environmental change. It’s also an opportunity we have on an individual level. How many of the environmentally responsible habits you’ve adopted during level 4 can you bring with you to level 3 and beyond? What little luxuries can you really live without? How much non-local driving do you actually need to do? How many times do you really need to go grocery shopping in a week? Would your employer continue to let you work from home a few times a week, saving you time and sparing the air?
For now, we at Ecotricity look to the future with hope, hope that the world will come out of this crisis in one piece and hope that the positive changes to the environment can be made to last by solid policy decisions and support from all New Zealanders.
Read more about Covid-19 and the reduced carbon emissions with one of our latest blogs here.