With Earth Day having just past in the midst of this global pandemic, the environmental impact of the past few months has changed the world outside of our homes.
These impacts have ranged from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to the return of wildlife.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly seven million people die each year due to air pollution. With the implementation of COVID-19 precautions, air pollution globally has steadily declined, with a reduction of 30% in the Northeast U.S alone. Some areas, however, particularly major cities, still haven’t declined to levels the WHO would consider safe. Wuhan China, for example, currently sits at an average of 32.9 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5, an air pollutant that’s unhealthy for humans and causes air to appear hazy. The WHO considers any PM2.5 level over 25 to be unsafe, and levels higher than 25 will often be seen in heavily concentrated areas like cities.
A number of countries have reported record lows for air pollution but questions have arisen as to whether or not this reduction can last.
Kelsey Duska, a marketing specialist for IQAir, (a global air quality information and tech company), spoke in an interview with CNN about a few of the ways we can attempt to preserve these cleaner air conditions.
“These include supporting green deals in government stimulus packages, shifting towards sustainable sources of energy for power generation, limiting individual’s purchases to primarily essential goods, opting for cleaner modes of transportation — including walking and cycling — and encouraging a shared economy of goods,” said Duska.
During this pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency has also attempted to show greater leniency on air pollution produced by power plants and factories. For now, these facilities are responsible for themselves, in terms of their capabilities to meet the legal requirements of reporting air and water pollution. The EPA won’t be issuing any fines should a facility violate their reporting requirements.
This sudden development was brought on when companies requested it due to a large number of concerns brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies argued that the amount of layoffs they’ve had to issue has resulted in a reduction to maintain consistent pollution levels. The change in regulations, however, doesn’t mean facilities will have free reign to do whatever they please.
“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis,” said EPA spokesperson Andrea Woods an interview with The New York Times.
Videos and stories have recently gained popularity for showcasing wild animals exploring or returning to cities. However, additional posts have been proven fake or not as big of a deal as they’re made out to be by National Geographic. When it comes to some of the more popular stories, National Geographic explained how the dolphins in Venice, Italy were really from Sardinia, Italy. The elephants that passed out in a tea garden in Yunnan Province didn’t actually drink corn wine until they were drunk. These stories were fabricated as well, though the specific reason is unknown.
Earth Day 2020 was celebrated with some of the cleanest air pollutions the world has seen in a while, and it’ll be up to citizens to decide whether or not that reduction remains after the pandemic.
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