A SECOND CHANCE
By Maria Baeva
Given the current state of the world, it can seem as though the world has stopped spinning. We find ourselves in a new and strange way of life filled with; face masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing. Basic elements of our daily lives such as going to work or to University, travelling by public transport or even something as simple as grabbing a coffee seems to be more complicated than before. This pandemic is without a doubt, a horrifying and heartbreaking experience, in which it is easy to feel helpless, stuck and out of control.
However, in the midst of this world altering crisis, now could be a better time than ever to pay attention to the state of the planet that we live on and make the necessary changes in order to heal our home.
Unfortunately and as twisted as it is to admit, the state of the environment has somewhat improved since the pandemic due to what can only be described as the temporary lack of human activity. Due to lockdowns across the globe, wildlife started to slowly re-emerge and air pollution levels lowered in numerous countries. This actually helped some areas of the world in regards to the pandemic because the bad air quality was proven to make Coronavirus symptoms worse (Gardiner, 2020). As shocking as this is, it is hard to ignore the fact that a pandemic that is as dangerous and traumatic as this one, is what brought a bit of positive change to our planet’s climate. However, this could also be our wake up call and chance for us to change the planet for the better and hopefully, more permanently.
The Global Warming crisis and the general decreasing state of the Earth’s environment has been taught about in schools, there have been protests about the issue throughout the generations and it has been talked about on the news for years and yet it has always been a back-burner issue. This isn’t something that can go away however it is something that we can improve. The UK has already taken a step in the right direction by following the Green Recovery Plan which is meant to help us reduce carbon emissions in heavy industry in conjunction with recovery from Coronavirus (GOV.UK. 2020).
While this is great news, this pandemic is much more complicated and has also hindered the environment as well as helped it. It may have improved the air quality but it has also created a lot of damage to the oceans. Due to the number of disposable masks, medical gloves and hand sanitizer bottles being used around the world, the ocean floors are littered with them. The founder of "Opération Mer Propre" in France ("Operation Clean Sea"), has said that if this keeps happening there is a risk that there will be “more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean” (Kassam 2020). This is a horrifying thought and that is why we need to act.
This problem is complicated because naturally, there are people who do not have a choice in wearing a disposable mask or medical kit such as key workers or people who do not have a more eco-friendly option available to them. However, to those who do have a choice, there is a way to help reduce the amount of masks that fill the oceans.
Reusable masks are sold online, in local businesses or, if you have a creative touch, you can make them from the materials you have at home. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been lots of Youtube tutorials and articles on how to make your own masks. They are an eco-friendly alternative to disposable masks and it is easy to wash them after use and use them time and time again. This may seem like a trivial addition to your lifestyle but the benefits are threefold: a) reusable masks will help prevent the spread of the virus, b) they will reduce the amount of masks that end up in the oceans and c) you can get them in all kinds of colours and prints!
In all honesty, these times are unprecedented and scary and there is still much more to be done in order to restore the environment but there is also an element of hope, whether it's regarding the pandemic or the impact it has on the environment. Let’s make a positive difference, even if it’s a small change in your day to day routine like switching to a reusable mask.
Look after yourself and our planet!
Gardiner, B., 2020. Pollution Made COVID-19 Worse. Now, Lockdowns Are Clearing The Air.. [online] National Geographic. Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/pollution-made-the-pandemic-worse-but-lockdowns-clean-the-sky/> [Accessed 8 October 2020].
GOV.UK. 2020. PM Commits £350 Million To Fuel Green Recovery. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-commits-350-million-to-fuel-green-recovery> [Accessed 10 October 2020].
Kassam, A., 2020. 'More Masks Than Jellyfish': Coronavirus Waste Ends Up In Ocean. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/08/more-masks-than-jellyfish-coronavirus-waste-ends-up-in-ocean> [Accessed 9 October 2020].