There can no longer be any doubt about the impact human pollution has had. From downtown LA to the Himalayas, for the first time in our lives we can see with our own eyes, how much cleaner the air is from just a few weeks of dramatically reduced activity. The important question now, and challenge to us all, is to find a way to enable a robust economy while still protecting the environment we all need.
"For the first time in our lives we can see with our own eyes, how much cleaner the air is from just a few weeks of dramatically reduced activity"
In the US, domestic air travel is down by 96% according to the TSA, which is jaw dropping, and could spell the end of the airline industry as we know it. With most Americans under "shelter in place" orders, vehicle traffic has similarly diminished to such an extent that the famously smoggy LA Skyline now looks like a modern Claude Lorrain painting.
Will air travel and vehicle traffic return to their former levels? Very likely, even if it will take years for the economic impacts of the near global shutdown to subside, our lives will return to normal at some point and so will the levels of pollution that our activity is causing.
Or, we could "Build Back Better". In 2017 the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, outlined is a sweeping report how impacted communities can come back stronger and better prepared for the next natural disaster. But instead of a country or a region, Covid19 has impacted our whole planet, and in our global recovery effort, lies a huge opportunity to make long-term changes for the better.
"What this shutdown and shelter in place has also shown us, is the magnitude of the change we need to make"
It's now easy to see how much we pollute, and it's easy to say we can do better. But what this shutdown and shelter in place has also shown us, is the magnitude of the change we need to make. Right now, we have an either-or choice: shut down nearly all major human activity or continue ruining our shared environment.
Neither of those options are sustainable, obviously, but for the first time in our recent history, we have a common enemy called Covid19 that can unit us in purpose to rebuild the economy in a more equitable and sustainable way- let's make the most of it.