• Troy Curtsinger

What Coronavirus teaches us

There is no doubt that anyone reading this has been effected somehow by the Coronavirus pandemic. Personally, I have had the luxury to stick inside and only go out when I have to, but that is also partly due to living with more than a few at risk people. besides all that, I wanted to talk about something environmental today.

(Image taken by Elina Sazonova)


One unexpected result of these lock-downs(or at least unexpected from my somewhat ignorant view) is the sheer reduction in emissions and beautification of parts of the world. I'm sure most of you heard of the dolphins and swans in Venice waterways. While I cant in good conscience tell you that they were a natural gift or caused by the lockdown(since apparently those images were taken in areas of Italy where they already appeared normally) I can use such excitement as a fun metaphor. The proverbial "Swan in the Canal" is that ESA reports that specifically Nitrogen Oxide emissions nearly disappeared in Italy during the lockdown. in New York, CO2 emissions have fallen by 50%. China's coal usage decreased by 40% during its lockdown. all of these numbers are substantial progress in pollution reductions the likes of which would be thought impossible.


The fact is that these number shouldn't be surprising though. pollution is caused by Humans doing things and making things. every light bulb contributes to the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere (as long as its not produced completely renewably) and every solo cup creates pollution when made and when trashed. so logically, if we stopped going places and doing things, we would stop, or at least greatly decrease, polluting. The real success in this regard is that we have set aside our supposition in the Prisoner's Fallacy. its the idea that two people are in prison, and the police dont have enough to convict either of them. but if either prisoners confesses about the other, they will get a sweetheart deal. The best action for both is to be quiet, but if the other person doesn't, you get hurt. We know that spending to fix the environment, no matter how good of an idea or helpful it is, will be wasted money if not everyone contributes. so as countries and groups, we have, more often than not, not contributed so that we wouldn't be the ones footing a bill for bad air. the problem with this thinking is that if everyone participates, everyone wins. It is the prisoners Fallacy after all. While global collaboration over the Coronavirus hasn't necessarily been exemplary, it has in fact been cooperation, at least in large part.


(Photo by Anna Shvets)


I do have to say here that I also think its a bad idea to idolize the lockdown. what world is worth to save if we aren't living? that's not to say quarantine is some mortal punishment, its just not life as we know it. so what can we do and learn from this? or what can we do without fundamentally destroying our way of life? 2 simple changes have happened. first, We have started doing a lot more working from home. the simplest way to cut pollution from your commute? Don't commute. its as simple as that. secondly, we started doing less frivolous things. as a culture, we have a habit of buying whatever we like when we feel like we can, which isnt necessarily wrong, but when you are classifying things as "essential" and "nonessential" for survival terms, you start to second guess buying a pasta maker you wont use. So think about how you might shave a bit of your commute off when this is all over, and maybe the air will be a little clearer.









Im just gonna like vomit all of the things referenced in this article, as best order I remember:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/dolphins-swans-italy-lockdown/

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2020/03/Coronavirus_nitrogen_dioxide_emissions_drop_over_Italy

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51944780

https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-china-carbon-emissions-3453d9a1-1ae9-4789-8a41-3ed257946dbd.html

https://www.today.com/news/save-environment-one-commute-time-wbna24312866 (this one is a fun article about how to make your commute more environmentally friendly if, like most of us, you still have to commute.)

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