The Effects of COVID-19: How the Environment and Economy Intersect

Reader Contribution by Kari Klaus and Realty Sage
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As I am sure all of you know, we are currently living through history in the making. Our lives have shifted dramatically as we cope with the new virus by obeying stay-at-home orders and remaining self-isolated. But while we have been safely tucked away in our homes, the earth around us as begun to heal itself in our absence. This is interesting, because while the human world, specifically the economy, is seeming to crumble, the environment is being given a chance to rebound.

Guiseppe Mondì

Environmental Impacts of COVID-19

There is, thankfully, a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have been keeping up with social media and the news, you may have noticed that wildlife and the environment are better off due to our world pausing.

Improved Air Quality. Due to the stay-at-home orders issued by the state governments of the United States, there is significantly less travel, which reduces transportation-related pollutants. Airport and car related pollutants have decreased, which decreases the amount of nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde being emitted.

Both of the named chemicals contribute to ozone development. Ozone not only contributes to global warming, but is also toxic to humans, causing chest pain, coughing, and throat irritation. Less coal is being burned due to a decrease in energy consumption during the COVID-19 national shutdown.

Coal burning creates carbon dioxide emissions, which also contributes to climate change. Although domestic energy usage has increase 6-8% due to citizens working at home, the pandemic has still caused an overall decrease in energy consumption. The reduction in both transportation pollutants and coal burning emissions have led to better air quality globally. For example, the air pollution in New York have dropped by almost 50%. Emission levels have also dropped in Europe and China.

Increased Water Clarity. There has been a decrease in boat usage in oceans and waterways during the Corona Virus pandemic. This has caused water clarity to improve. In Venice, the boats used locally stir up sediment for the bottom of the canals, making it difficult to see wildlife. Now, with no boats in use, the water clarity has improved and fish are visible.

Decreased Noise Pollution. Fewer planes, ships, buses, cars, and people are traveling due to the stay-at-home orders associated with COVID-19. This travel restriction has resulted in significantly reduced noise levels. Seismologists report that the earth is experiencing less seismic noise, which is vibration of the earth’s crust. The decrease in noise has improved quality of life for animals so much that animals are migrating less and have a lower mortality rate. Marine animals have experienced less stress due to noise caused by cruise ships.

All that being said, we can conclude that the environment and wildlife have been rebounding during the coronavirus outbreak. With less invasion by societies’ emissions and noise, the earth has has the opportunity to heal somewhat.

 Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

The Economic Effects of COVID-19

As I said in the beginning of this article, COVID-19 is making history with its unprecedented impacts. As I am sure every American has seen and experienced, the economy of the United States has taken a big hit as a result of the pandemic.

The Dow.The Dow experienced the largest drop in the first quarter since 1987. This monumental drop in the Dow could have significant negative effects of citizens’ personal savings and pension. The Dow drop has also impacted citizens’ desire to spend money; to remedy this, interest rates have dropped to encourage spending and the U.S. national government passed a $2 trillion Corona Virus Aid bill to help stimulate the economy.

Unemployment. More than 30 million people have applied for unemployment amid the Corona Virus pandemic. The number above is a record high for the United States. This in due to the closing of non-essential businesses, which was implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Risk of Recession. The current economic climate is called the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s by IMF.  IMF (International Monetary Fund) says that the global economy will shrink by 3% in 2020. Economic growth is characterized by increases in both wealth and employment – in 2020, we see neither of those characteristics. Needless to say, the Coronavirus is causing significant damage to the American and global economies.

The Intersection of the Environment and Economy

There is no denying, the environmental and economic impacts of the Corona Virus pandemic are both extensive. But how do they intersect and interact with each other?

According to Bryan Duncan of NASA, If the amount of pollution emitted continues to grow over time, your economy is likely booming. The environment simple cannot handle the harmful emissions that a thriving economy produces. We see the same idea, only reversed, with the COVID-19 case – pollutants have been reduced but the economy has suffered. This evidence confirms that the environment and economy work in opposition with each other. When one is positively affected, the other is negatively affected.

Therefore, it is clear that it would be extremely difficult for a thriving environment and thriving economy to co-exist together.

Anna Jiménez Calaf

Where Does This Leave Us?

You may be thinking, “well this sounds pretty bleak.” But remember this crucial fact – the above section describes how the environment and economy traditionally intersect. Remember that the environment is harmed through traditional methods of energy creation such as burning gas and coal. There are, however, other ways of producing energy.

Until now, reducing global emissions through innovative sustainable measures has been a pipe dream that seemed ideal, but largely unattainable. Now, however, we have seen with our own eyes the healing effects of reduced emissions. We know that the results are real and tangible. This should drive us like never before to make changes to our traditional economic practices. By implementing widespread sustainable and innovative processes, a thriving environment and economy could potentially co-exist.

Sustainable practices can be implemented in large and small ways. Communities and individuals can reduce their personal carbon footprint by implementing sustainable urban planning, increasing public transit use, and by investing in green homes and development. Nations and corporations can reduce emissions from production and development by utilizing renewable energy sources and advanced technologies. For example, Target has outfitted 300 of their facilities with solar panels and will outfit 200 more in 2020, all of which will decrease the emissions of the company. Advanced smokestack filters can also be used to remove 90% of pollutants from smoke before releasing it into the environment. Through these types of measures, we could see continued positive economic growth, without the negative impacts on the environment.

Vivint Solar

How YOU Can Go Green

As I said, Individuals can reduce their personal carbon footprint by implementing sustainable practices. But maybe sustainability seems a little intimidating? Not to worry! There are hundreds of easy ways to make your household more sustainable in regard to energy consumption, water use, shopping, and more!

One of the other ways I mentioned that individuals can implement sustainable practices was to invest in a green home. Users can use Realty Sage’s eco home search to view homes of all types, from LEED certified to solar powered and everything in between.

A green has a smaller carbon footprint than a traditional home due to energy saving technology. Green homes are incredibly healthy for residents and are also cost saving, which is an added plus during changing economic situations, as we are in now.

If you are interested in how your individual actions can change the world, check out this article, Climate Change: Can One Person Really Make a Difference. As the article quotes, Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Everyone has the ability to throw their own stone, which can cause a worldwide, planet-healing ripple effect.

Maggie Hartman is a Sustainability Content Writer Intern Kari Klaus is the founder of, a data-driven real estate platform which overlays sustainability intelligence onto home listings. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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