On Earth Day, The Surprises Emerging From The Pandemic

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Elisabeth Brier   Forbes U.S. Staff

On Earth Day, The Surprises Emerging From The Pandemic

The unprecedented global shutdown has had some surprising effects on the environment. On the upside, less commerce and commuting has resulted in lower pollution. On the downside, the lockdown has translated into fewer volunteers for conservation efforts and a serious lack of ecological law enforcement. So as we pause, amid this great pause, to celebrate Earth Day, here are some of the pandemic’s less obvious effects on our common home.  


Number of American local governments, inlluding cities of Birmingham, Alabama and Miami, that have suspended curbside recycling programs due to the pandemic. Despite this, experts predict ladfills will still shrink due to a lack of a commercial activity. 


Number of California rare plants species - including Mono Lockoweed, a legume with showy pink flowers and Dean's milkvetch, a mostly hair-less herb- whose seeds will likely go uncollected for the Center for Plant Conservation this year, putting them at greater risk of extinction. 


Area of raodside grass now being allowed to grow and bloom after some councils in the United Kingdom suspended verge mowing as non-essential. 


Amount of carbon dioxide in the air above New York City, about 10%less than before the city's lockdown. 


Projected worldwide fall in CO2 emmisions. 


Amount fishing activity has declined off the coasts of China and West Africa. Low demand due to unemployement, closed restaurants and on-the-boat health concerns are forcing fleets to stay in port. 


The amount whitefish, flatfish and herring populations can increase in one year without fishing. 

77,000 LIVES

The number of people, including 4,00 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over 70, who are likely alive today due to coronavirus-related reductions in China's pollution.  


Area of Brazilian Amazon Basin deforested in March, the highest level since 2008, as illegal loggers take advantage of reduced law enforcement. 


Fraction of the flights in the U.S. that have been canceled, despite a 96% decrease in passengers, leading to a proffusion of near-empty flihts.


Number of times a Hong Kong's zoo giant pandas and Le Le have successfully mated since the pandemic began, the most in ten years. Speculation is that the animals were taking advantage of the lack of visitors for some much-needed privacy. 


  • Waste Dive
  • Center For Plant Conservation
  • Dr. Trevor Dines, Plantlife
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University
  • Carbon Brief
  • Douglas Rader, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Rainer Froese, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
  • Marshall Burke, Earth System Science Department at Stanford University 
  • National Institute For Space Research
  • Transportation Security Administration 
  • Ocean Park
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Elisabeth Brier   Forbes U.S. Staff

I edit Forbes’ Business section to highlight stories about top innovators and disruptive technologies.