How Coronavirus Has Reduced Pollution

March 24, 2020

Aerial image of an island showing waves splashing onto a beach with vegetation around the beachBefore we start talking about what’s going on in the rest of the world, let’s take a moment to check-in. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been worried about the world, our family, and our friends, and I know for many of us, it’s been challenging to find some space for ourselves. Take a moment and ask yourself how you are doing. What is something you could do today to relieve some of the stress from your heart? Amidst this crisis, something that’s been helping me is sitting outside on my patio and enjoying some sunshine. I know that’s not available to everyone right now. Maybe set up a fort in a sunny window, or cozy up next to your plants and drink a cup of tea. Do something today to bring some peace to yourself, we will get through this.

Amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, a lot of us, understandably, have been looking for any sort of silver lining. And this is not to downplay or make light of anyone’s suffering. People need hope; that’s just how we are. When things get unbearably painful we look for light amidst the darkness we are in. There have been stories emerging of wildlife coming back into the cities and other areas where they have been long gone. These stories were going to be the focus of my conversation with you today. However, unfortunately, many of these stories are fabricated. This article from National Geographic goes over the truth behind each of these viral stories.

One story that I am sure many of you saw was the Venice canals clearing up and the swans returning. The author of this tweet, Kaveri, saw the photos and compiled them into the tweet that we saw on our feed. However, Kaveri was unaware that these photos were taken in Burano, Venice, where swans are regularly seen. Regardless, Kaveri doesn’t want to delete the tweet since she’s arguing that the water is actually clearer since COVID-19 because of less water pollution and boat traffic. This much is true, the canals in Venice have cleared up significantly, and fish are once again visible.

Unlike some false stories about wildlife thriving during this time of crisis for the human population, there is real good news that has been released by NASA. China was the first country affected by the COVID-19 virus. In the past months, much of the businesses and factories throughout the country have shut down. This has made such a difference that the decrease in pollution is actually visible in satellite images from NASA. Since China is the world’s biggest polluter, in part because of its heavy industry, this is amazing news. In addition, many have been working from home, which has in turn reduced the amount of vehicle emissions. According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the amount of “good quality air days” has increased by 21.5% this month compared to last year. According to Marshall Burke, a professor at Stanford’s Department of Earth System Science, the reduction in pollution could save about 50,000 to 75,000 people from dying prematurely. He notes that the reduction in air pollution could save 20 times more lives than have been lost due to COVID-19 (writing as of March 8, 2020).

There are so many people affected by this crisis. Some have loved ones that are sick or are sick themselves. Others are losing their jobs or having their hours cut. It is crucial to remember right now that we are all in this together. I know that everything seems bleak, but let this story remind you that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It might not be an expected ending, but we will get through this. Support one another, and remember to make space for yourself as well. 


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Photo by Michael Olsen on Unsplash

Iga is a freelance writer based in Colorado, but originally from Poland. She follows the vegan, sustainability and zero-waste movements while trying to live a practical lifestyle! When she’s not writing she likes to practice yoga, read, play with her dogs and just be outside in nature. You can find more of her work at her website


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