With coronavirus sending much of the world into lockdown, changes in the environment are beginning to surface in some cities.
Be it clearer waters in Venice or dolphin sightings off the coast of Mumbai, the internet is full of news and tweets about how the lockdown has caused a positive environmental difference.
Many such articles have a common theme: Humans are evil; we destroyed the planet, and now Nature is paying us back.
But doesn’t the loss of human lives defeat the very purpose behind environmental actions?
A Few Are Actually Happy About the Coronavirus Crisis
Last week, the Guardian ran a news article titled, “Nature is taking back Venice: wildlife returns to tourist-free city,” talked about how the coronavirus curb has made the water lively with fishes.
In India, dolphins were sighted near the coast of Mumbai city. One Bollywood actress tweeted, “It seems dolphins were sighted just off the shore near Breach Candy club ..!!! This shutdown of cities is not so bad after all #CoronavirusPandemic.”
Environmentalists were quick to point out that the dolphin sightings were a regular phenomenon for this season and had nothing to do with the coronavirus lockdown.
SBS news claimed that coronavirus is helping improve the environment all over the world. It read, “But as humans slow down the pace of economic activity to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the natural world, it seems, is breathing a sigh of relief.”
While there might be a minimal short-term improvement in certain environmental parameters (like air pollution), there is no evidence that the ongoing crisis is beneficial to human society.
Human Health and Environmental Quality
The relationship between human well-being and environmental conditions is not straightforward.
Some people are happy about emission reductions caused by the lockdown. But, they must remember that the purpose of all their efforts to reduce emissions is to make the planet safer and healthier for people to live, not to see those people die.
Their rejoicing for “environmental progress” at the cost of lives reveals their true colors. If they have no concern for the lives of people, they defeat the purpose of setting out to reduce these emissions.
Moreover, the rapid increase in emissions during the past three decades has had no perceivable impact on global average temperature (GAT). Scientists confirm that the GAT failed to rise to expected levels during the first 14 years of this century, despite all the computer models forecasting so.
So the current slump in emissions is nothing to be happy about. On the contrary, we should be worried about the repercussions of reduced emissions. In fact, human society flourishes the most when emissions are high.
In the pre-industrial era, people had low life-expectancy rates. But in the post-industrial era, the life expectancy reached an all-time high, despite countries going through periods of extreme pollution.
This is because the use of environmental resources — like fossil fuels — enabled humans to discover, innovate, and build better facilities and infrastructures.
The world became so much better that countries of the industrialized West was able to rejuvenate and restore their environments. Today they boast some of the finest environmental conditions. In fact, studies show that economic freedom (not a lockdown) results in a cleaner environment.
The philosophy of radical environmentalism is dangerous. It instills anti-human ideas in the minds of our children. It must be exposed for its apathy towards human suffering.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.