Our stories often discuss how human activities change the natural environment. With most of us confined to our homes, the lack of human activities is having profound effects on the environment. We are talking about some of these this week.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global catastrophe, but it has ironically been a boon for the environment. By taking billions of people off the streets around the globe and slashing all forms of travel, the global environment has seen dramatic changes.
Sea turtles in many countries are prospering by not having to compete with humans for precious beach space. Animals everywhere have more freedom to roam and are taking advantage of the opportunity. The Himalayas are visible from parts of India for the first time in decades.
Satellite imagery has shown dramatic drops in nitrogen dioxide emissions in China, where pollution from vehicles is a serious public health problem. Similar reductions in air pollution are evident in India, Italy and even in Los Angeles. The city that is notorious for its smog suddenly has pristine air.
In Venice, water in the canals has become clear in the absence of heavy boat traffic stirring up sediments from the bottom. Wildlife that normally is invisible such as jellyfish are being spotted.
Not all the changes to animal behavior are desirable. Some wildlife that have become dependent on humans as a source of food are becoming aggressive and are taking to the streets of cities to look for food. Monkeys in Thailand are mobbing towns and brawling, hunting for things to eat. Rats in New York City are fighting over suddenly meager food supplies.
In many ways, the natural world is reacting to much of humanity sheltering in place.
Photo, posted April 2, 2020, courtesy of Flickr.