Student Essay 2 – Impact of Lockdown on Our Planet

We received some fantastic essay submission by our students during Eco Week. Today, we would like to share another winning essay on the topic of “Impact of Lockdown on Our Planet”, by Jia Xuan in Form 5.

Read the full essay below.

            The last decade was the warmest ever recorded. The oceans are acidifying, ice caps are melting and forests are burning. It would require tremendous efforts to slow down climate change, let alone reverse it. Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic is a blessing for the environment.

            Countries worldwide have commenced “lockdowns”, commonly known in the media. Specifically in Malaysia, the Movement Control Order (MCO) began on the 18th of March 2020 as ordered by the federal government. Scientists predicted that due to the severe lifestyle changes forced onto the population, this pandemic will reduce the most anthropogenic carbon emissions since World War II.

            There has been a reduction of 71% of flights worldwide, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions significantly. Alongside, all forms of transportation have been decreased, allowing the percentage of “good” air in Malaysia to double in the past month! The drop in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and nitrous oxides is extremely effective in slowing down climate change, since the emissions from vehicles were one of the major contributors. Human induced air pollution is one of the main reasons that biodiversity is disappearing at 1000 times the normal rate of extinction. With stores, schools, factories and virtually everything closed, there has been a large drop in energy consumption worldwide. Burning of fossil fuels as the world’s main energy source is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas production. Habitat destruction and deforestation for provisions of fossil fuels reduces photosynthesis, narrows diversity of species and pollutes land, air and water. The drop in energy use will save animal lives and allow carbon dioxide to be cleared at a faster rate, reducing our GHG and slowing the thinning of our ozone layer. The reduction of acid rain will also save the lives of many marine animals, plants and much more. Not to mention, the toxic byproducts of power plants are the largest contributors to water pollution in the US so the reduction of poisonous waste, often containing arsenic, mercury and lead will prevent extinction and mass death of marine life.

Even the tragic deaths of more than 300000 people, as of the 16th of May 2020, has brought improvements to our surroundings. The world’s average carbon footprint per capita is 4.8 tonnes as of 2017, leading to a reduction of almost 1.5 million tonnes just this year! The reduction in greenhouse emissions due to these lockdowns worldwide allows the ozone layer to repair or slow the depletion of it ; fighting climate change, reducing intensities of natural disasters, lowering sea levels, reducing acid rain and much more if kept up. For the first time in 30 years, the Himalaya Mountains can be seen from New Delhi due to decreasing air pollution. In Venice, the canal waters are finally clear enough to see fishes through. NASA even released satellite images of a drastic reduction in pollution over some of the cities with the worst air quality in the world : Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

            With COVID-19 originating from Wuhan, China and the USA having the most severe experience with the pandemic, it is a stroke of luck. China and the US are the top two countries, for most, ranked by energy consumption, greenhouse gas emission, population and much more. Hence, having tighter restrictions in those countries will improve the environment the most.

            I find that an important improvement to come from this pandemic is the changes of how society will function after. Is it really necessary to take a flight all the way to another country when a business meeting can be held through Zoom? Or that we drive 10km away for one cup of bubble tea? The lockdowns have rationalised people, reducing the use of transportation and resorting to our advancing technology for simple yet practical replacements. The effect of this mentality will multiply and benefit the environment significantly in the future.

Thankfully, influencers on social media have also been advising concepts like it. There have even been promotions for healthy eating. Diets such as being vegan or cutting out meat products have been very popular in hopes to “glow up” this quarantine, as advertised in the media. Temporary or long term, the reduction in dairy and meat products will benefit the environment tremendously. Meat such as beef produces 60kg of CO2 from 1kg of product. Even products such as cheese produce 21kg of CO2 per 1kg of substance! 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the food and agriculture industry, with most GHG being methane and nitrous oxides. Methane has 28 times more of an effect on global warming in comparison to carbon dioxide! Cutting out or reducing the consumption of meat or dairy will have a significant positive effect on a person’s carbon footprint and will aid in our fight against climate change. Even the decrease in consumption of food will aid not only the environment but a person’s health, reducing obesity, diabetes and such alongside allowing the overall agriculture industry to reduce in size.

            However, there are many downsides to the pandemic : creating mountains of waste through single use items and medical supplies, the fear of public transportation and the stunted economy foreshadowing a steep increase in greenhouse emissions in the near future. Though most of the positive impacts of COVID-19 on the environment are temporary, I believe that these small gifts will allow more people to see what we are capable of in our fight against climate change and motivate them to take part in improving the future of our environment. That is the biggest impact of it all.

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