While the pandemic has frustratingly put our lives on hold during the last twelve months, the resulting restrictions have also provided an opportunity to pause for thought and consider our responsibilities in tackling one of the biggest issues facing our planet today – climate change. There are many lessons to be learned as a result of the pandemic about our response to environmental issues, including rethinking how we use transportation, our habits as consumers of energy and resources and how we need to prioritise public health over economic growth.
This guide will explore some of the key environmental lessons we can take forward from the pandemic and how they can be applied on an individual, national, and global scale.
We Are All Responsible
Although the outbreak of COVID-19 and climate change are separate issues, the pandemic has proven that the actions of one person or community has the potential to affect the entire world, sometimes with devastating consequences. This is a stark reminder that all of us – as individuals, nations and as a global population – are responsible for limiting the impact of our actions on the environment, both at home and around the world. World governments have increasingly prioritised conversations about how to tackle climate change since the pandemic began. Green trends for businesses and households, such as using recyclable materials for products and packaging, as well as switching to renewable energy solutions like solar and wind power, have all continued to grow in popularity in the last year. With energy costs predicted to double in the next ten years, more businesses are adopting renewable energy solutions as a cheaper alternative.
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Greener Transportation is Sustainable
During the first UK lockdown, the stay-at-home message from the government meant that the number of people travelling to work, school and other destinations by car fell dramatically. With many people continuing to work from home throughout the course of the year, this trend – to an extent – has endured. Fewer cars on the roads means less harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere on a daily basis. In addition, many who would usually travel by public transport have instead opted to walk or cycle to limit the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to sustain these habits by considering whether journeys that you would usually make in your car are essential and opting to use greener alternatives to public transport for the sake of the environment, as well as public health.
Plant-based Eating Can Make a Difference
Pending further investigation, it is widely accepted that the first recorded cases of COVID-19 were linked to a meat market in Wuhan, China. Whether you think a plant-based diet is right for you or not, most researchers agree that the way in which we rely on animals for food and profit greatly increases the risk of pandemics. Plant-based diets are also beneficial to the environment, with the meat industry a big contributor to annual global emissions. Many of us have taken steps to reduce our meat consumption in the last few years, something that will no doubt intensify due to the nature of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Public Health Comes First
With the government providing some financial backing for companies amid tiered restrictions on how businesses can continue to operate, it is clear that public health has taken priority ahead of the economy throughout the pandemic. Public health and the environment go hand-in-hand, with the quality of the air that we breath, our diets, and the physical conditions in which we live all linked to the world around us. We can learn from the fact that we have put our immediate health before the economy during the pandemic, by applying the same sentiment to the impact that climate change will have on public health in the long term.
It’s Important to Act Now
Everything that we know about COVID-19 has been learnt in a short space of time and the development and roll-out of several vaccines in less than a year has been nothing short of remarkable. Countries such as New Zealand have been praised for their fast response to the outbreak of COVID-19 which has limited its impact there. The way the world has rallied behind the cause of eradicating the virus can teach us that we are capable of responding to large-scale crises in a swift manner. And with climate change becoming an increasing threat with each passing year, a more urgent response, compared to the action taken over the issue thus far, will likely be required in the years to come.
Global Cooperation is Essential
As well as taking stock of what we, as individuals, can do to protect the environment at home and in the community, the pandemic has proven that we are capable of instigating a globalised response to an issue that affects us all. Restrictions such as social distancing, testing, travel restrictions and the wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces have come into effect in some form in most countries around the world. Using a globalised approach is crucial in attempting to tackle another global threat in climate change, and world governments and organisations need to pull together to formulate a shared response to the issue.
Keep Learning and Innovating
Throughout the course of the pandemic, world governments have been guided by both internal advisers and the World Health Organisation to inform their decision-making on issues such as social restrictions and vaccinations. Applying the same level of research and science-based innovation in our response to tackling climate change will increase our chances of getting on top of the issue in both the short and long term, and the pandemic has proved that we, as a global population, are adept at taking such action.
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