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Illustration by Vivi Zhu

Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Save Us from Tartarus?

Global Heating intends to turn our beloved Earth into Tartarus. Will the greatest foe of our time, the Coronavirus Pandemic, actually turn out to be our long-awaited savior?

Nov 28, 2020

I can safely assume that this year has been very different from what anyone had in mind. Even if things do appear to have gone back to normal, nothing will truly be the same. It is undeniable that great harm has been done and many have lost their lives. The pandemic has changed us, our lifestyle and our behavior. Still, it can be argued that it has opened our eyes to some of the bigger and more complex problems that we seem to have forgotten — problems that not only affect us, but also the Earth. Thus, while it is true that the pandemic has negatively impacted our lives, it has had quite the opposite effect on the environment.
Although the climate crisis has unfortunately not disappeared and global heating is very much real and in progression, the drastic changes caused by the pandemic such as the long periods of quarantine and self-isolation have generally mitigated global heating. In many countries, traffic has dropped immensely due to lockdowns, and the utilization of virtual communication platforms reduced the need to commute. For example, the U.K. witnessed a 73-percent drop in road travel, as numbers fell to levels not seen since 1955.
Concurrently, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased. A paper published in late July shows that temperatures in some parts of the globe decreased significantly since the start of global lockdown efforts, and evidence suggests that there is a reasonable correlation between these two factors, as emissions of greenhouse gases alone [decreased by] ( 2.5 billion tons. Some studies even concluded that even a partial lockdown was a suitable method of mitigating global heating.
In fact, not only did the levels of carbon dioxide emissions decrease but also the emissions of other toxic gases and pollutants. Notably, the levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions have also decreased by over five million tons. Furthermore, the amount of particulate matter, also known as PM 2.5 — fine solid or liquid particles that not only harm the lungs and respiratory system but also the heart and blood vessels — emitted have been [reduced] ( by 0.6 million tons. Some studies have also shown that the hole in the ozone layer above the United Kingdom has gotten smaller, as the level of “ozone has increased by 11 percent.”
Unfortunately, [many researchers predict] ( that these positive trends are only temporary. They expect thata rebound to normal, detrimental human activities would not only erase the current progress, but cause even more harm. A similar phenomenon occurred during the 2008 recession, where emissions decreased between 2008 and 2009, only to rise again to usual levels in 2010 when economic activity reenergized.
Given the positive changes in the Earth’s atmosphere since the start of the pandemic, it is important to note how this reflects trends of unnecessary spending and consumption in our society. We cannot allow that to happen again. The pandemic has presented us with many obstacles and challenges and encouraged us to think more creatively. Let us not throw all of that away. We shouldn’t wait until things go back to normal; instead, we should get to the drawing board right now to ensure that we avoid the catastrophic consequences of global heating before it reaches the 10-year interval after which its impact will be irreversible. One of the most important changes that should have been implemented years ago is increasing production efficiency. Power plants and factories regularly consume large amounts of energy and emit various greenhouse gases and other toxic chemicals. Therefore, we must instead invest in the production of clean energy, through efforts in research and development.Furthermore, though this may sound unrealistic or even insane to ask, we have to put forward goals and motives other than profit-making.
Since we cannot rely on producers to do that on their own, we must utilize the forces of demand and supply to induce this change. This means that it is the responsibility of each and every individual to be a little stricter with themselves and maybe sacrifice just a few of today’s comforts to ensure that there will be a tomorrow.
For example, we may have to consciously decide not to purchase that nice pair of trousers because we have seven back home, or even actively cut down on our visits to fast-fashion stores in general. We can also avoid using single-use plastics by keeping a reusable coffee mug in our (tote) bag, or carry a tote bag when we go shopping. In addition, we should all aim to decrease our consumption of electricity. Nowadays we spend most of our time sitting down to attend Zoom calls, and this can greatly impact our physical wellbeing. So, to try and fight these negative impacts, we can all reduce how often we ride the elevator, incorporate more movement into our days and take more breaks from all screens for a few hours each day to help rest our eyes too.
We have to be strict with ourselves — very strict — and we have to be able to adapt and evolve to make compromises, if we want not only future generations, but also us, to have a home that has not been turned into Tartarus.
Yehya Nakaweh is a Contributing Writer. Email them at
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