1st July 2020

Cleaner air and lounging lions

I think it’s safe to say we didn’t expect 2020 to be the year of masks, zoom calls and 2 metre meet-ups. We also didn’t expect it to be the year that led to reduced pollution, re-emerging wildlife and plunging oil prices. Although we may have hoped for these changes to come about in a different way we’re glad to be heading in the right direction to protect and preserve the wildlife and habitats we love to explore.

Venice's canals emptied of the motorboat taxis, transport and tourist boats

The Himalayas visible from Northern India

The skies are clearing of pollution, wildlife is returning to newly clear waters and it’s been noted that citizens in Northern India are seeing the Himalayas for the first time due to the veil of air pollution lifting - a few months ago, environmentalists could only dream of such a scenario with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on the horizon. The waters of Venice are now clear, lions have frequently been found lounging on roads by safari-goers in South Africa and bears are now wandering around empty accommodation in Yosemite national park in California.

Lions nap on road during South African lockdown

In April nearly eight in ten flights globally were cancelled, with many planes in the US carrying just a handful of people. Although scientists note the expected cut in emissions is still less than what is needed every year this decade to avoid disastrous climate impacts for much of the world. But there is still hope - In China carbon emissions fell by around 25 per cent over a four-week period at the beginning of this year as authorities shut factories and people were instructed to stay home. From big changes to small ones, Trevor Dines, Plantlife's Botanical Specialist said, "an unintended but understandable consequence of lockdown may be reduced mowing that has the potential to benefit wild plants and the bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs that depend on them for survival."

Animals roaming empty streets during lockdown

Michael Gerrard, an environmental law expert at Columbia University, said in a recent interview “It’s the worst possible way to experience environment improvement and it has also shown us the size of the task,” but then goes on to pose an interesting question - “do we have a green recovery, do we seize the opportunity to create jobs in renewable energy and in making coastlines more resilient to climate change?” 

Across the world, the lockdown may just be showing us how far we’ve still got to go in looking after our planet, but also how quickly the natural world can adapt and thrive in our absence when given some space.

More stories