It’s hard to envision that there are a whole lot of positives coming out of the global pandemic that is affecting pretty much all of us right now – especially for students.
The worldwide implications have been pretty catastrophic.
In addition to all of the death and prolonged illness, many countries are going to see their economies suffer and a significant number of them will probably find themselves in a recession once this is over.
It’s hard to say right now when that will be. It’s going to vary from country to country because the severity of the impact is varied but it appears that we shouldn’t expect a return to normalcy anywhere for several more months.
The world is watching and waiting with bated breath, a lot of us are either facing the unexpected challenge of having to work or study from home for the first time or even worse, unemployment. Unemployment has sky-rocketed since the beginning of this crisis.
What Does This Mean for College Students?
We’re all basically trapped inside, forbidden from socializing, and our physical contact even with our closest friends and family members is severely limited.
Much of post-secondary learning has been moved to online platforms which in and of itself causes unique challenges.
But it’s a necessity right now. In order to reduce the large-scale destruction the virus is causing, lockdown is necessary.
So having said all that, there have been some interesting results as a consequence of people being forbidden from going out and also from so many major companies having to close their doors.
One thing that’s happening is that we’ve seen a pretty huge, global decrease in pollution. Most significantly air pollution has dipped quite a bit. Let’s have a more in-depth look at the reasons why:
How It’s Happening
The European Space Agency (ESA) has been using its Sentinel 5P satellite to analyze the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide present in the air. This particular gas is produced from things like car engines and power plants.
When inhaled NO2 can cause damage to the respiratory system and can worsen the effects of lung and throat issues such as asthma, bronchitis, and most relevant to right now, this strain of Coronavirus.
And while it isn’t technically considered to be a greenhouse gas, an analysis of the NO2 levels in the atmosphere is a good indicator of the levels of greenhouse gases that we’re dealing with right now too.
This is because the root causes of these two issues are the same. The results of this analysis by the ESA are quite interesting. Over places in which there is typically a lot of pollution, we can see a drop off in and around 20% in NO2 emissions.
These places include the likes of Wuhan in China where the virus, of course, had its origins, and Seoul, South Korea which was one of the cities in which the virus took hold at a very early stage and was largely affected.
In addition, Milan in Italy has seen a drop of 40% in emissions and then researchers in Columbia University have determined that Carbon Monoxide emissions in New York City have fallen by half.
This has been a year of unprecedented occurrences and the air pollution situation is no exception to that. We have never seen such a mass reduction like this before and while it makes sense for it to happen, it’s not a consequence that much thought was given to.
Can We Capitalize?
So while this is one small sliver of light in a vast chasm of darkness, the question on everyone’s minds right now is does it really matter?
Of course, it seems like a step in the right direction, but is it something that we can capitalize on?
Once this is over, things will slowly go back to normal. And if we truly want a return to normalcy, that is going to mean that all of the industries that have shut down production will have to restart again and so a resurgence in these toxic gases is likely inevitable.
At least at first. But what has been proven by these last few weeks is the fact that it is indeed possible to put a halt to pollution and slow down the production of the forces that are contributing to climate change and our planet’s destruction.
And in truth, some of the changes wouldn’t have to be that hugely significant. First of all, traffic has decreased worldwide because so many people are working from home. And when we analyze the situation, a lot of jobs and courses can actually be done effectively from home.
People working in software development and I.T and anything equivalent don’t have to be bound to one location anymore. The internet and the capability for mass communication have made remote work possible.
And even if we don’t all work from home, we’ve seen now how significant the effects of cars and other vehicles are on the environment and that’s a problem that should be tackled head-on.
The real challenge in reducing air pollution will be in regards to industrial and power plants. It’s not quite as easy to shut those down or to alter the manner in which we generate power, but it is possible.
And what these last few weeks have proven is that humans can accomplish a lot when our backs are against the wall.
With the ever-increasing demand for eco-friendly cars in almost the whole world right now, more and more of us will be able to get one at affordable prices – these, once luxury items are now available on sites like KBB, FindTheBestCarPrice, Edmunds, and other huge dealer sites where you can check their prices and even buy a used electric car from your sofa.
Things Are Already Changing
Because of all the damage that the virus has caused, the reaction to it (from most countries) has been commendable. We’ve lost a lot of people, but the action taken on a global scale has no doubt saved a lot of lives too.
This should be a lesson to all of us. We should approach climate change and pollution with the same vigor that we are approaching this pandemic because, in truth, it’s an even bigger threat to humanity.
So to come back to the question of if we can capitalize on this. We most certainly can. Will we capitalize on it? Well, that’s a different story. We’ll have to wait and see.
The truth of the matter is that the pandemic and its positive effects in themselves will not slow down climate change because things will have to go back to normal, but they can change people’s minds about how seriously we should be taking this problem.
With proof that there can be change, there are very few excuses left for not working towards those changes. We need to do things like upgrading our infrastructure. Buildings and transmission lines are huge contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy-efficient buildings are possible and we can also change the way that we produce the cement used in construction by moving away from fossil fuels. A massive change, but one that would help the environment in a big way.
Vehicles are another contributor, and as we’ve seen right now with fewer people traveling to work, if there were fewer cars on the road there would be less pollution and the spread of greenhouse gases.
So maybe we should maintain the practice of working and learning from home on a large scale. If you don’t need to go into an office to work or a college to learn anymore, then maybe you just shouldn’t.
Of course, this is up to the employers and educational institutions, but it’s a norm that could continue long after the pandemic is over.
The biggest change that needs to happen is that we need to avoid fossil fuels on a large scale and these alterations can help to contribute to that.
If we just imagine that the threat of climate change is as big of a problem as COVID-19, which of course it is, and restrict ourselves with similar tenacity then we could see some real progress towards saving the planet.