The environmental benefits of the coronavirus pandemic are only temporary, warns the head of the UN Environment Programme.
- Satellite imagery shows that significantly lower air pollution over much of the planet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- As the U.S. was preparing an economic stimulus package for struggling Americans, some lawmakers tried in vain to include environmental provisions.
- Whether now is an appropriate time to consider restructuring the economy and energy infrastructure is a controversial topic.
The relationship between pandemics and the environment<p>Andersen noted two key reasons why the environment is directly relevant to the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. First, as human development continues to creep into new ecosystems, it's bound to put people in close contact with wildlife, which is how zoonotic viruses spread.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"According to IPBES, we have seen 100 million hectares of agricultural expansion in the tropics between 1980 and 2000, roughly equal to the size of France and Germany combined," Andersen wrote. "The 'wild' must be kept 'wild.' It is time to restore our forests, stop deforestation, invest in the management of protected areas, and propel markets for deforestation-free products. Where the legal wildlife trade chain exists, we need to do a far better job of improving hygiene conditions."</p><p>The blog post also noted that global warming is making it easier for dangerous microbes to survive in the environment.</p>
The pandemic is a 'portal'<p>As the economy continues to spiral and U.S. unemployment reaches a record high, is now the time to consider making massive changes to the ways we envision our society? One interesting answer comes from Indian author Arundhati Roy. </p><p>In a recent piece in the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca" target="_blank">Financial Times</a>, Roy writes that the pandemic is a "portal, a gateway between one world and the next." Roy makes no explicit mention of the environment or climate change, and he's not necessarily suggesting that efforts to restructure society should take priority over, say, aid packages to citizens. But he does argue that we shouldn't aim to return to "normality" as the global community begins to repair the damage caused by the pandemic:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to 'normality', trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."</p>
French president Emmanuel Macron recently announced plans to close all of the country's coal-fired power plants two years ahead of schedule.
A massive solar project has just been completed, and its specs are impressive.
Environmentalists so far are infuriated by the actions of the Trump White House. With a little less than a year in office, the administration has opened up public and protected lands to energy exploration, removed the US from the Paris Agreement, and scrapped the Clean Power Plan. In the near future, there are plans to expand offshore drilling, sell off public lands in the West, and allow for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In the summer of 1969, America did the extraordinary. Let’s do it again.
Optimism, as defined by economist Jeffrey Sachs, is more than just a translucent, faraway wish. It means having bold goals and acting on them—even if you have no plan or existing knowledge of how you'll get there. The US was once good at this: In May 1961, President Kennedy stood before Congress and announced that the US would land a man on the moon and bring him back safely before the decade was out. In the summer of 1969, that mission was achieved. If American politicians, scientists, engineers and the public could unite for the space race, then the same is unquestionably possible for the urgent humanistic causes of poverty, inequality, and curbing global warming, which will create millions of climate refugees this century. Optimism doesn't just require vision and determination—it needs a deadline, as JFK showed. By 2030, let's mobilize our optimism to cut poverty in half in America, and make a decisive move to renewable energy.
How will we deal with the impending overpopulation crisis – and how much of a crisis is it anyway?
The population is growing, says Bill Nye, but it’s important to note that the rate of growth is slowing down. Why? Because the more our societies educate girls, the fewer children they have once they’re women. The population will very likely rise to 9 or 10 billion people and the world does have enough resources to look after us all, provided we do three things to redistribute resources globally, not just in developed nations. We need to produce reliable renewable energy to get electricity to every individual on the planet. We need to use that clean energy to increase the quality of water sanitation systems in developing nations so we lose less time and lives combating diseases, time which children could better spend in school. We must continue to educate girls and women, as quickly as we can, which means providing access to the internet and other information resources, globally. It’s in our best interest; if women have more control over their lives and reproductive choices, the world’s resources become more ample for each individual. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.