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Coronavirus and the environment - how can I help?

Written by Milly Whitehead on 26 / 05 / 2020

Gap Year Advice

While the world continues to deal with the COVID19 crisis that has affected so many, we thought it might be an interesting change of perspective to consider some of the resulting environmental impacts– after all, we love a bit of happy Earth news here at Leap HQ and short of more cups of tea and endless biscuits it is getting us through.

From cleaner air to clearer waters and liberated wildlife (yes we’re talking about the goats taking over the empty streets of Llandudno in Wales) the lock down has had some noticeable benefits to the environment. Here are some of our favourites:

Cleaner air

In March road traffic was 70% down in the UK. Reduced commutes to work, drastically reduced flights and a large proportion of vehicles off the road has contributed to cleaner air (toxic fume levels are the lowest since 1950’s!). Meanwhile citizens in Northern India are able to see the view of the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in their lifetime.

In China there was a 25% reduction in carbon emissions for a 4 week period at the beginning of the year as people were took to their homes to isolate.

Cleaner water

We've all seen the photos of the canals in Venice now proudly displaying much clearer water. This is due to the lack of water taxis and other boats largely used by tourists flocking to the area which churn up the sediment at the bed of the canal causing its murky appearance. A much welcomed benefit for the locals to appreciate.

Wildlife

It seems many species are enjoying the lack of human presence and spreading their wings. Yes the ‘earth is healing’ memes are funny but there is actually some truth in them. Lions in Kruger National Park now line the roads as they sunbathe away from prying eyes, a pod of killer whales spotted near Vancouver’s North Shore in March, 59 years since the previous sighting. A rare Puma has also been spotted in Santiago, Chile back to the environment humans had taken away from it.

It is also hoped that wild blooms could have their best year yet as council mowing comes to a halt which in turn will benefit bees, birds, butterflies and bats that depend on the flowers.

Fast Fashion

With economic uncertainty we’ve adapted to a time where you realise what you can do without – fast fashion being one of them. While we are all guilty of seeing the Amazon delivery guy more than our own family these days it seems fast fashion could see a downward trend – gone are the days of buying the must have £10 little black dress that you wear once, as the closest we are getting to a night out is switching from day pyjamas to night pyjamas.

Exchanging and selling clothes on Depop is a great way to avoid clothes being sent to landfill while making some money on the side – we are all doing clear outs of wardrobes and reorganizing anything that stays still long enough, think before you bag it and bin it! Anything you sell could go towards your travels.


However, it’s not all rosy and the environment is going to need our help when this is over. Here’s why we need to listen up:

Deforestation

The presence of COVID-19 has allowed cover for many illegal deforestation operations as shown in Brazil where deforestation levels were surging 50% above base level.

Conservation charities suffer

We all know how hard-hit charities are who rely on donations at this time. As money worries threaten the nation lots of donations have been cut short meaning conservation charities are suffering. This is exactly the case for our Namibia program, they do such incredible work to re-wild the area into a national park but once donations shrivel up, so do they and would be unable to operate.

Conservation projects - tell me more

Litter

While face masks are preventing the spread of COVID-19 a lot of them are ending up in landfill adding to the plastic waste. Fly tipping has also caused huge problems for green areas where individuals have been illegally dumping their waste due to reduced bin collection services in their areas. This not only looks horrible but is harmful to wildlife. Beaches are also suffering, waste is getting dumped and washed up on to the coast harming wildlife such as turtles who can't make their way to the oceans once hatched. Fewer volunteers are also able to go out and help do clean ups, this is something we are really passionate about kick starting once it is sage to travel again.

Increase in emissions

As we are advised to avoid shared transport such as buses and trains and encouraged to use our cars this is going to increase emissions and harm the environment as workers are gradually making their way back into work or schools.

Research and development

This is a really important point, as the economy has taken a sharp nosedive down, large corporations perhaps aren’t as likely to invest into researching green energy and alternative eco-friendly ways to improve their practices which has a big impact on the environment.

So there you have it, pros and cons of COVID-19 on the environment, both raising interesting points. It's clear to see that a lot can be done to help the planet once we are allowed to do so. Start by looking at what area of conservation you are keen to help in - reforestation, re-wilding, reef conservation, education...take your pick here

Conservation projects - tell me more

We’re still here, resilient as ever and are desperate to get our planet-saving programs up and running again. The wish list is proving popular for those wishing to join us in the future, pick your destination, pay no deposit and know that you’re on the list for when the world reopens.

Stay safe, speak soon,

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