By. L. Mizne
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been shown that carbon emissions have lowered significantly, even in cities like Delhi, Los Angeles and Seoul. In cities like Venice, the waters cleared allowing for dolphins to be seen, and penguins were spotted roaming the streets of Cape Town - all of which gave the impression that nature was benefitting immensely from lockdown. However, outside of urban areas, in nature reserves or regions with little human contact, there has been quite a large negative impact.
This is because in rural areas, people mainly rely on nature for their livelihoods; hunting, fishing and logging for profit. The demand for these jobs continue during quarantine, causing those laid off from their previous jobs in urban areas to move to rural areas for this line of work. This leads to a strain in natural resources, as well as a higher transmission of the virus from large cities into rural areas.
Besides that, the coronavirus has created an opportunity for poaching and illegal activity to occur. In nature reserves in some parts of Africa, India and South America, criminals have managed to poach animals due to the lack of guards. This is because many guards were laid off since the nature reserve’s income was cut off significantly, as many of them relied on tourism to sustain it. Similarly, in Colombia and Peru, there was an increase in the illegal mining of precious minerals such as gold due to the lack of guarding and the increase in their prices. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America also face a higher rate of deforestation during the pandemic, as many governments are mostly focused on the virus itself.
However, what many do not realize is that by ignoring these effects of the pandemic on nature, we allow for a higher probability of future pandemics much like this one. By us humans interfering with wildlife directly, diseases carried by some animals may spread to the population. Scientists have found that the source of 70% of new infectious diseases are these animals, and most of those viruses are harmless to them, but devastating to us. It has also been found that there are 1.7 million animal viruses that could infect people if the current relationship between humans and nature continues. Hence, protecting nature at these times is vital and should be prioritized, not only to protect the Earth’s resources, but also to prevent future pandemics like this one.