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Coronavirus: is working from home really better for the environment?

An Opinion Piece by Doug Specht, published by Geographical
Economic crises have historically had a major impact on the environment. As economies falter, there is a reduced demand for commodities, such as timber, oil and other materials produced by the extractive industries, putting less pressure on our forests and rivers.

The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is even more widespread. Just over 100 days since countries across the world started shutting down trade and travel, closing businesses and limiting other economic activities in an attempt to control the coronavirus pandemic we are already seeing significant environmental changes. Just as after the 2008 financial crash, when the shuttering of businesses saw levels of atmospheric sulphur dioxide fall 85 per cent in Delhi, and man-made greenhouse gases in Europe and the US drop by 100 million tons, the measures being enacted to control coronavirus are already showing visible, and far reaching, atmospheric environmental improvements.

Social media and the press have been awash with stunning images of improved air quality around the globe. The first images came from NASA, showing how pollution levels were visibly lower across China following its lockdown. Today we see photos of cities, such as Beirut and Los Angeles, once smothered in smog, now with clear air. Emissions from traffic in New York have dropped almost 50 per cent. And Europe, too, shows significant reductions in air pollution. Again, these improvements in air quality are so vast that they are visible from space. The environment, it seems, is having a much-needed, if eerie, reprieve.



Image: ESA, via YouTube.

Doug Specht


Dr Doug Specht is a cultural geographer and educationalist. His research explores themes related to environmental justice, human rights, and access to education, with a focus on the production and codification of knowledge though cartographic artefacts and in educational settings. In recognition of his work, he has been appointed as a Chartered Geographer and Chartered Teacher. In addition, he has been awarded Advanced Teacher Status, alongside being a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE. Dr. Specht has authored numerous articles and books, including Mapping Crisis, the Routledge Handbook of Geospatial Technology and Society, the Media and Communications Student Study Guide and Imagining Apocalyptic Politics in the Anthropocene. He writes regularly on ethics, environmental and human rights, education, and mapping practices in such publications as WonkHE, The Conversation, Geographical, and for Times Higher Education. Dr Specht is a member of the editorial board of the European Journal of Geography, Westminster papers in Communication and Culture, and Anthropocenes – Human, Inhuman, Posthuman. He is Chair of the Environmental Network for Central America.


21 April 2020
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CAMRI | Coronavirus: is working from home really better for the environment? - CAMRI
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