The recent world-changing events of the coronavirus have had a host of effects, which one of the most important, has been to momentarily stop the use of major technological capacities that produce the bulk of pollution in our environment.
Ironically, this particular series of events has always been laughed at as a potential cure for the damage of Human-caused climate change. It was considered inconceivable that Humans could have had any effect on the environment, but without having a baseline to check against it was easier to claim we simply couldn’t know. Until now.
With the recent inclusion of India into a national lock-down, one-third of Humanity is currently under Shelter-in-place protocols in order to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the devastating COVID-19 disaster in hospitals around the world.
From New York City to Bangladesh, the citizens of the world’s most polluted cities are breathing a sigh of relief. No. Not from the coronavirus, which continues to plague the world, but from the much more accepted but not necessarily more acceptable specter of environmental pollution.
Specter, you say. What could possibly be dangerous pollution? When we talk about pollution honestly we have to admit millions of lives are affected every year tangentially by pollution of air, earth, and water. It is estimated seven to eleven million people die from pollution-related events every year.
The World Health Organization reports:
Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. WHO is working with countries to monitor air pollution and improve air quality.
From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections.
More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guideline limits, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures, both indoors and outdoors.
While this has happened, environmentally speaking, the basic premise of #IndustrialQuiet, reducing pollution by shutting down the most extreme pollution vectors, automobiles and business offices have been mitigated by shelter-in-place orders worldwide. Using planetary monitoring equipment, the environment has responded to the reduction of pollution. Previously most cities held a cloud of stagnant air which is often trapped there in heat envelopes.
Such envelopes, particularly in the summer months eventually become smog, a fusion of smoke and fog which can stay stagnant for months at a time, causing dangerous air quality days, creating suffocating pollution causing or exacerbating asthma conditions.
The world’s largest lockdown means all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship are now closed, most public transport suspended and construction work halted has meant the air is clean for the first time in decades. Already, data shows that the main cities are recording much lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5, and of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by vehicles and power plants.
PM 2.5, which is smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, is considered particularly dangerous as it can lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs and the bloodstream, causing serious health risks.
As terrible as this crisis has been in terms of economics, its social effects, its long-term cultural effects, the silver lining is many major cities are getting a much-needed respite from decades of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter perpetually suspended over their cities.
I understand the challenges presented and recognize we cannot shut down the world forever but this critical moment has presented us with a rare opportunity to consider changes to our behavior in places that can sustain the effort of teleworking because of the environmental benefits. Cesunica Ivey, a researcher and chemical/environmental engineer at the University of California Riverside, points out in an article with Space.com:
“Shifts in individual behavior can be incentivized by local, state, or federal policies, such as work-from-home tax credits,” Ivey said. “Businesses, universities, and other public organizations can allow employees to telework when it makes the most sense and carries out meetings and business services via video conferencing whenever possible.”
Key words: #coronavirus, #airquality, #pollution, #COVID19 #telework, #telecommute, #carbondioxide
World Health Organization: Air pollution. (2020). Retrieved 2 April 2020, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1
Rebecca Wright, C. (2020). The world’s largest coronavirus lockdown is having a dramatic impact on pollution in India. Retrieved 2 April 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/…/coronavirus-lockdown-impac…/index.html
Gohd, C. (2020). Shutdowns from coronavirus create blue skies in California, could inform future pollution control. Retrieved 2 April 2020, from https://www.space.com/coronavirus-california-emissions-redu…
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