Corona Corrects the Environment: Fighting an Invisible Change

Lucy Jones: The miraculous return of dolphins to southern Italy—some of the first positive news many of us heard in the midst of the pandemic. Although Covid-19 has caused global catastrophe—in everyone’s day-to-day lives, in the economy, in the workforce—it has also helped restore and revive aspects of the natural world that might not have been feasible otherwise.

With the whole world on pause, carbon emissions have dropped significantly. CarbonBrief, a climate-science nonprofit, reports that in China emissions have dropped 25% and are continuing to do so as the Chinese remain in quarantine. While it appears that the world is simply moving around less, that is not quite the case here in Bend.

Central Oregon is home to hundreds of trailheads and outdoor recreation sites that attract locals and tourists alike. With few tourists in town right now, one might think the crowds would be a fraction of their typical size, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Since many of the trailheads have been closed, people are flocking to wherever they can in search of open space. If you have walked along the River Trail, through downtown and the Old Mill, or ridden through the lower Phil’s trail system at any point during quarantine you have seen this first hand.

Senior Eliza Murray, an avid runner and hiker, can attest to the overcrowded trails and said that people are continuing to stay active outside. Perhaps because most public restrooms and waste areas remain closed, Murray says she’s noticed a significant uptick in trash scattered near the trails, littering some of her favorite spots.

“I love walking and running with my family around Shevlin park, and quarantine has definitely not stopped us from doing so, and that also seems true for the rest of Bend,” said Murray. “Though I have seen more trash around the area recently because it is so overcrowded.”

Although some people may not be mindful of the minor effects their actions have on the environment, the global pandemic has planted a new seed into the minds of environmentalists: if people can collaboratively work for the world’s safety, people can collaboratively work for the well-being of the environment.

The World Economic Forum proposed that if people around the globe are collectively making a small effort for change right now, why can’t that same ideology be transferred to the wellbeing of the environment? Perhaps through collective action, we can see positive change here in Bend. 

“While environmental pollution and massive inefficiencies like food waste have long been written off as ‘externalities’ in our economic system, Covid-19 awakens us to an alternative, truer reality: each of us in our home ecosystems is part of an interconnected system that we have the power to change,” said James Rogers, CEO of Apeel Sciences, an innovative sustainability company.

Furthermore, physical distancing has translated to significantly less driving, which means less carbon emissions. Since everyone is staying home and only going out for necessities, the roads have been far less crowded since the lockdown began in mid-March.

“My mom has been the only one going to the store, my dad and I have hardly driven at all in the last couple weeks,” said junior Chelsea Mayer. “It seems weird to me even being in a car at all right now.”

The partially empty streets will fade as phase one continues, though what won’t fade is the global fight for invisible change. The collective action that was started in order to combat the pandemic should be applied to the environment. 

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