Monday, 13 April 2020

Environment Monday - How long will the coronavirus environmental bounceback last?

There was an interesting article in the Guardian last week, detailing how nature is bouncing back as we are in lockdown. One fact that gave me pause for thought was the decimation on wildlife caused by cars.
"This year will almost certainly see a much lower toll for roadkill by cars and trucks, which – in the UK alone – annually takes the lives of about 100,000 hedgehogs, 30,000 deer, 50,000 badgers and 100,000 foxes, as well as barn owls and many other species of bird and insect. Many councils have delayed cutting the grass on roadside verges – one of the last remaining habitats for wildflowers – which should bring a riot of colour to the countryside this summer and provide more pollen for bees."
I'd never seen these figures before. I was shocked to learn that we casually kill so many animals, casually and without remorse, in our cars. Even more shocking is the realisation that by letting grass verges grow into flower, we could massively help our bee population, which has been under extreme stress. Over the average lifetime of a UK human being, we will see over 80 million hedgehogs killed by cars. Look at it another way, statistically every driver in the UK will kill more than one hedgehog in their driving career. How on earth can this be justified? We pass laws to control dangerous breeds of dogs, but the car inflicts a cataclysmic toll on UK wildlife, even without the pollution and disruption.

At the moment wildlife is seeing some respite. Are we happy that this is simply rolled back the day the lockdown is lifted?

Yesterday the Guardian posted a story that we could see a reduction of over 5% in carbon emissions this year. The article states

Climate experts expected global carbon emissions from fossil fuels and cement production to rise in 2020, from an estimated 36.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide last year. Instead, emissions may fall by about 5%, or 2.5bn tonnes of CO2, to its lowest levels in about a decade.

Again, we have an unexpected respite in our full on assault on the environment. Before the lockdown, the talk was of Greta, XR and direct action. It is almost perverse that a Conservative government has taken the drastic action necessary to stop climate change in its tracks, with no discussion or debate at all. When we have a clear and present threat such as a virus, we get the message and we buy into it. It seems that when it is a few years off, and a few people who do not understand basic chemistry claim it's a myth, we are less concerned.

The big question is how long this bounceback will last, once lockdown is lifted The government will have some very interesting data as to exactly what happens when you take drastic action. Quite by chance, they have undertaken a massive environmental experiment. I am not an expert, but maybe, just maybe, there are a few quick wins that can be identified from this. A few small changes (not total lockdown for ever), that we can take from this. My hope is that by taking some of the pressure of wildlife, by having a slowdown in CO2 emissions and by giving companies and individuals a chance to reflect on the way they lead their lives, there may be a more long term benefit for us all.


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