This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.
Coronavirus disease (known as the Covid-19 pandemic) has been a dreadful catastrophe for the world, sweeping across countries and causing a dramatic loss of life. The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to livelihood and stability, for instance, a shortage of resources in healthcare, a halt in educational studies, and a slowdown in economic growth. Other than such disastrous threats, Covid-19 shed light on human’s potential to address the climate crisis and raised awareness of the multidirectional relationships between ecosystems, environmental quality, and people’s well-being.
In response to Covid-19, local governments have enforced partial and total lockdowns and established travel restrictions. Heavy industries and massive transportation have shut down. Prevention measures have altered our lifestyles and economics; working from home, social distancing, and switching towards private vehicles, walking, or bicycling. All of such changes bring about a sudden drop in greenhouse gas emissions. In May 2020, the average concentrations of NO2 were 60 percent lower than the expected values in 34 countries after the lockdown periods of a minimum of 50 days (Venter et al.). Studies have shown that declines in air pollution enhance the recovery from Covid-19 as well; we can recognize that a healthy environment is accountable to the wellbeing of mankind.
There has also been a tremendous reduction in water pollution and noise pollution due to the absence of industrial worksites and lesser economic activities and communication worldwide. The above-mentioned changes are useful by-products of extreme measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it can be witnessed that we are adaptive to unexpected situations and capable of carrying out apparent shifts when we perceive the danger. These impacts are short-term outcomes of the quarantine periods, but we all possess excellent capacities to perform indispensable actions collaboratively to tackle more significant climate issues and sustainability in the long term, given that it has already been possible to change.
Covid-19 draws attention to the fact that humans are responsible for the spread of infectious diseases. The SAR-CoV-2 virus that caused Covid-19 is observed to have originated in bats and transmitted to humans via an intermediate host initially from Huanan Seafood whole market, where wildlife animals are on sale in Wuhan, China (Zheng). Similar to Covid-19, there has been an outbreak of SAR-CoV coronavirus in China in 2003, due to infection from exotic animals sold on street markets (Wiebers and Feigin). Such markets provided a new interface between large crowds of people and deadly pathogens and diseases like Covid-19 for infection.
In Spillover, David Quammen argues that human practices are the major concern of the emergence of contagious diseases. He states that “Human-caused ecological pressures and disruptions are bringing animal pathogens ever more into contact with human populations, while human technology and behavior are spreading those pathogens ever more widely and quickly” (Quammen 40). Landscape expansion, rapid invasion into forest lands, over-cutting trees, and consumption of exotic wildlife have exposed humans to unfamiliar deadly pathogens. Considering the correlated facts from Covid-19, we must understand that ecological interruption is the main reason for the ongoing pandemic. It is essential to respect the relationship between animals, social life, and our environment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a wake-up call to humankind that environmental health is linked to our wellbeing. Green trees flourishing in forests and woods is our health. Wildlife animals inhabiting undisturbed is our health. The sky is uncontaminated with man-made chemicals in our health. This is a time of learning, dreaming, co-creation for the world we want to live in. We need to be watching this crisis closely and learning lessons from the global response to address the more enormous climate challenge.
By further embracing our common humanity and cultivating greater care for the integrity of the ecosystem, we all need to fight Covid-19 and survive this disaster collectively. In the post-Covid-19, we all have to adopt green dimensions of sustainability and immediately act for future changes for the sake of green recovery and address the global climate crisis which is way more devastating than this virus. We ought not to hesitate to change because we already have done it.
This article was written by Thuta Ye Moe, edited by Siobhan Honey, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.