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8 Optimistic Environmental Facts About the Pandemic

By Alexandra Lev

It may seem strange to contemplate anything good coming out of a pandemic, but greenhouse gas emissions are down, air quality has gone up, and communities are binding together to help one another. This Earth Day, we’ve rounded up some optimistic effects of the shelter-in-place orders throughout the globe to inspire you. And while scientists say that many of the positive environmental impacts of the pandemic are likely only temporary, the changes we’ve seen may also shed some light on ways we can better address climate change going forward.

1. NASA satellite data shows drops in air pollution

Data from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite shows a significant drop in atmospheric nitrogen dioxide in major cities across the northeast U.S.. Overall,  levels are down about 30% over major metropolitan areas including D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston. [Space.com]

2. The Himalayan Mountain range can be seen from Northern India

People in the northern cities of India are able to catch views of the Himalaya for the first time in years due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown. India is home to 21 of the 30 worst polluted urban areas in the world, but on the very first day of lockdown, cities like New Delhi experienced a 44% reduction in PM10 air pollution levels. [CNN]

3. Home gardening is surging

Nurseries across the country are selling out of vegetable starts and seeds as many Americans strive to be more self-reliant by growing their own food. Some garden stores and nurseries are reporting that seed sales have doubled, with tomato plants going at the rate of 800 a day. It’s not just about growing food though—gardening also provides an escape and gives people an opportunity to connect with nature in a new way. [CBS News

4. Wildlife are enjoying newly quiet spaces

With humans largely on lockdown, normally stealthy wild animals have been spotted in places where they normally lay low, from nesting sea turtles on beaches in India and wild goats in a Welsh town, to bobcats in the now-closed Yosemite National Park. [LA Times]

5. The coronavirus is changing the way scientists work together globally 

Scientists around the world have been collaborating to respond to the coronavirus in a way we’ve never seen before. Researchers have launched over 200 clinical trials and also made their online studies readily available, uniting scientists and laboratories around the globe. Chinese researchers have contributed a significant portion of the coronavirus research available to online archives that share academic research before it’s published in journals. [NY Times]

6. Participation in home science research has increased 

Zooniverse.com enables people to take part in real research with over 50 active online citizen science projects, such as counting penguins or finding kelp forests in the ocean using live images and camera trapping. Since the pandemic started and shelter-in-place orders went into effect, Zooniverse has seen a surge in participation, with 30,000 new contributor sign-ups in one week. [Climate Change News]

7. Seismologists can hear more of the earth’s movement 

With people staying indoors and commuting less, city noise has dropped drastically, allowing  seismologists to better hear the Earth’s natural tectonic movements. This also allows seismologists to gain a clearer view of the planet’s interior, allowing them to better detect small earthquakes, potentially dangerous faults, and rumblings from active volcanoes. [NY Times]

8. Earth Day goes digital 

Earth Day Network, the global organizer of Earth Day, will be postponing its live 50th anniversary event, moving the global event to October 24-25, 2020. However, the organization is promoting some digital events, including virtual protests, social media campaigns, and online teach-ins that will be unified by the shared hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EARTHRISE. A full list of online events can be found here. Perhaps the digitization of this annual day will lead to greater participation, while the rescheduled official global day will give us a second opportunity in 2020 to raise awareness about protecting our planet. [Earth Day

Alexandra Lev is a freelance writer, content developer, and public speaker on subjects ranging from women in the outdoors to mental health and the environment. As a passionate outdoor enthusiast, it’s her mission to inspire others to connect with themselves, their communities, and the planet in a deeper way. A Salt Lake City native who now lives in Portland, OR, her free time is spent adventuring in the backcountry with her husband and their two Siberian huskies. Follow her at luckyalexandra.com or @luckyalexandra.