EDITORIAL: Coronavirus pandemic offers environmental opportunity that we must not waste

York Dispatch
A thick blanket of smog and dust is shown on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, in 2017. Air pollution around the world has been markedly reduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opportunity can present itself during the most difficult of times.

Now is such a time.

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is a worldwide challenge that has left hundreds of thousands dead, millions sick and billions afraid.

Unfortunately, it may take years to fully emerge from this scourge — economically, physically and mentally.

Still, when we are finally permitted to fully emerge from our house-bound cocoons, we will likely encounter at least one pleasant surprise.

Our environment will be noticeably and pleasantly cleaner.

After just a month of forced confinement, our planet is enjoying a much-needed respite from the daily pollution that normally plagues our skies, our water and our land. Reduced traffic on our roads and reduced economic activity have drastically reduced our use of fossil fuels.

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Not surprisingly, reports are pouring in from across the world about the improved air quality.

Los Angeles, which has had some of the tightest coronavirus restrictions in the nation, also normally has some of the worst air quality in the nation. Now, L.A. has turned into one of the nation’s cleaner cities, according to IQAir. In fact, L.A. has enjoyed its longest stretch of “good” air quality since 1995.

Similar reports are being recorded in other international megacities, such as Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi.

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There’s little doubt that our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams are also benefiting from this momentary reduction in the toxins we normally spew into our environment. Scientists have even noted that noise pollution has been significantly reduced. Even the litter on our roadways has lessened.

All of those factors should help us in our ongoing battle against climate change.

Economic cost: Of course, this decrease in pollution is coming at an enormous economic cost. Millions of folks are out of work and hundreds of thousands of businesses have been put at risk.

Once the coronavirus crisis abates, many of those people will, hopefully, go back to work. Traffic will obviously increase and our factories will again, hopefully, roar back into action.

And the pollution, unfortunately, will return, but it doesn’t have to return at the previous levels.

Over the past month, we’ve had the opportunity to see what can happen to our environment in just a short span. Our planet’s ability to rebound can often be quite remarkable.

We must chart a new path: That’s why, when the coronavirus pandemic passes, we should do our best to chart a new course in an effort to reduce the pollution pandemic that harms our health daily in ways that may not be immediately tangible, but are nonetheless quite real. They eventually catch up to us through increased levels of respiratory illnesses, cancerous growths and other diseases.

During the current crises, many businesses have likely discovered that many of their employees can work quite effectively from home, thus reducing the traffic on our roads and the pollution in our air. That is a trend that should most definitely continue.

Those same businesses should also more vigorously pursue alternative forms of energy that do less harm to the environment.

Additionally, on a more personal level, we have all likely learned over the past month that many of our car trips are, quite simply, unnecessary. In the future, we need to walk or bike to our destinations whenever feasible and car pool whenever possible. When you do venture out on errands, try to combine those chores into one trip.

Taking advantage of this opportunity: We have been given an opportunity and our planet has been given a desperately needed, short-term break.

We can't afford to mindlessly return to our old habits and allow this opportunity to pass us by.

Our planet, after all, is depending on us.