An unexpected beneficiary of COVID-19: the environment

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Created by Emma Caplinger

The global shutdown caused by COVID-19 is helping the environment as carbon emissions are reduced.

According to John Hopkins University, more than 2 million people have tested positive for COVID-19.  About 600,000 of those people have recovered, while about 160,000 have died globally. While COVID-19 is creating innumerable tragedies, there’s one unexpected beneficiary of the international shutdown: the environment. 

Satellite images from NASA were released to show nitrogen dioxide emissions in Western China. The trend isn’t exclusive to China; CNN journalist Rebecca Wright finds that the air pollution has seen a 71% drop over the course of a week in New Delhi, India. Though this is global, these patterns are still being seen on the national and local as well, according to Parkway’s Sustainability Coordinator Hannah Carter.

“[For Parkway], we’re using a lot less energy and water by being shut down,” Carter said. “One of the benefits is that we have building automation systems that make it so that from the comfort of our homes we can shut down and control pretty much every piece of equipment, so we have all the buildings shut down kept at 60 degrees, and we’re closely monitoring all of that.” 

Some anticipate an academic change in our daily lives once we come back to school and our normal routine.

“This is a really good reminder that our connection to the environment is so crucial, and that the environment isn’t somewhere over there, it’s not a national park. It’s literally the air you breathe every day, it’s the water you drink, it’s your soil outside your own house and in your neighborhood. It touches all of us in so many different ways, so everything you do does make a difference,” Carter said”

— Hannah Carter

“We’re already doing work with the environmental science curriculum for elementary school, and hopefully exceeding that into high school and middle school,” Carter said. “Hopefully this inspires people. There’s been a lot of student-climate action, and hopefully, a lot more students feel incentivized. Hopefully, this makes them want to have their voices heard and start climate action groups, and that’s something we would love to support.” 

Not only do Parkway staff think the curriculum will change, but students feel this way as well.

“This was just a really abrupt break to the status quo and the everyday life that we’ve been having,” junior Ulaa Kuziez said, “I think we could use it as an opportunity, not just as students but the whole society, in general, to realize that we should be making changes to how we are living.”

But some say this worldwide lifestyle change can bring many different opportunities for students, staff, and societies around the globe in the future.

“The way that the world has been able to shut down in a matter of days to respond to the coronavirus is proof that political leaders actually do have the power and ability to make a rapid change if they want to,” Kuziez said, “I think we should use that fact to then continue to pressure our politicians and our leaders to do the same exact thing to address the issue of climate change. I just hope that as a society and as students and young people we can use this opportunity to continue to push for climate action.”

Carter and others believe humans as a whole must treat this as a learning experience and that we are not exempt from change.

“This is a really good reminder that our connection to the environment is so crucial, and that the environment isn’t somewhere over there, it’s not a national park. It’s literally the air you breathe every day, it’s the water you drink, it’s your soil outside your own house and in your neighborhood. It touches all of us in so many different ways, so everything you do does make a difference,” Carter said.

How have you contributed to the environmental improvements during COVID-19?

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