The Pandemic’s Effect on the Earth

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Esha Brar

             While the pandemic has presented many challenges for the world, including large population deaths, more financial and economic struggles, and sadness, it actually has been able to provide many intriguing benefits to the Earth as a whole. With fewer people traveling to work, through forms of transportation such as cars, the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere and environment has reduced significantly. Another beneficial habit we have incorporated is buying food locally and flying less. A professor in the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin stresses the importance of internalizing a habit but says that the likelihood of internalizing a habit depends on how unique it is compared to other habits we have. Nonetheless, the pandemic has had undeniable benefits to the environment. With fewer people traveling by plane or car, this positively affected the environment, Sabina Shaikh, director of the University of Chicago’s Program on Global Environment explained. This also allowed for more safety and safety for biking and walking. The US Small Business Administration explains how when the pandemic first started, that many individuals turned to outdoor farmers markets and other small businesses to buy produce. The purchasing of food grown locally helps to minimize our carbon footprint, because of the fact that some of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation the food takes to get to its destination. This is known as “food miles.” However, it was found that locally or regionally produced food travels less than 400 miles from the point of origin to where it is marketed, or sold in the state. 

          The concept of working virtually has also helped the environment significantly. A recent statistic found that Americans traveled almost 37 billion fewer miles in June of 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The EPA also released a statistic that found that a typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Seeing more people walking and exercising during the pandemic, as well as using fewer forms of transportation has been very good for the environment. It is speculated that working from home a couple of days per week could reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly. 

          Reducing airplane travel has also been significant for the environment, although airlines were one of the industries that were hit the hardest during the pandemic. In the United States, airlines carried 70% fewer passengers in August 2020 compared to the same month in 2019, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Shaikh also explained how air quality improved around the world under pandemic restrictions, which was “due in large part to the reduction in travel.” Currently, flying accounts for 25 of global carbon dioxide emissions, and the number is on the rise. 

          Humans have also taken a greater interest in the environment as a result of the pandemic, which is actually beneficial for the earth. Exploring nature has many physical and mental health benefits, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Of individuals who reported spending at least two hours a week in nature, only one in seven reported poor health. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, children reap the benefits of regularly spending time in nature, with researchers finding that children who reported feeling connected to nature were more positive and altruistic, and scored higher on a happiness scale.

         Lastly, the introduction of a mask due to the pandemic will pose many beneficial effects for future infections and spread. In fact, a 2013 study published in PLOS Pathogens found that wearing a mask could significantly reduce the spread of the flu virus, and this fact is actually very applicable to today’s world. In 2020, the CDC also reported a steep decrease in influenza activity in the United States, which they attribute to people safely following Covid-19 procedures, as well as people receiving the flu vaccine. It has been evident that the pandemic has proved to have many beneficial effects on the environment, human health, and more. We should continue to incorporate these habits in our own lives, and try to maintain the earth as well as possible.