This Earth Day will be celebrated quietly, inside homes of people isolating themselves to stop the spread of Convid-19. Families will be sheltered together for over a month now, with social activities non-existent, business and schools closed, shopping malls and theatres shuttered against the spread. Social distancing has become a word recognized around the globe and waiting in lines for groceries six feet apart is the norm.
What is not normal is the amazing change in earths atmosphere. Murky canals in Venice have become clearer and for the first time in decades fish can be seen below the surface. Italy only ceased water traffic on these famous waterways 6 weeks ago and yet the results are crystal clear. Pollution monitoring satellites operated by NASA and European Space agency observed drastic decrease in air pollution in the first two weeks after quarantine was in effect. Over 25% decrease in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Results for Canada and the USA have not been released yet, but it can only be assumed that the same effect will happen in these countries as air, rail and car travel has been drastically restricted. Sightings of marine life has increased dramatically in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as infected cruise ships are docked and any sailings in the future curtailed until the virus is flattened or a vaccine is discovered.
Satellites captured the evaporation of the cloud of nitrogen dioxide that had sat over China for months and NASA scientists said that similar emissions reductions have been observed in other countries during economic disruptions, but that the sharp decrease in air pollution in China during the quarantine period was especially rapid. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement this month.
The average concentration of fine particulate matter – tiny particles that float in the air and are dangerous when breathed deeply into the lungs – dropped 40% in San Francisco over the past 5 days compared to the same time last year. New York city saw a 28% drop and Seattle 32% decrease.
Today celebrate Earth, celebrate the strength and resilience of the human spirit and know that things will get better. It would be nice if our environment could have improved without having to cripple our economy, but as we sit, firmly on the axis, rotating into the future we can make new choices.