With all the anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic, the plummeting stock market, and the isolation from social distancing, we could all use a little good news.

One of the unintended consequences of the coronavirus quarentine is that it’s helped to drastically reduce the human effects on the environment. The lack of human activity in urban areas is coaxing wildlife species from their hiding places, especially in urban parts of Japan and Thailand. NASA has already reported a massive reduction in pollution clouds over China and Italy. Another report found that carbon monoxide emissions in NYC, mostly from cars, have been reduced by nearly 50% compared to last year. Venice canals, usually foggy and filled with tourist boats, are now clear and are seeing a return of wildlife.  The lesson here is clear: while humans hunker down at home, the environment rejoices.

This is the sort of significant achievement environmentalists dream of and proves how drastically we need to behave to stave off a future environmental collapse. And yet, to celebrate would be premature.

Even though we might emerge from this pandemic in an environmentally better place, we are still under an administration who will always find a way to mess that up. Before the outbreak, the Trump administration was attempting to roll back EPA regulations as part of his pro-business aims.

Last week marked the beginning of the comment period for two major environmental policy changes (including one that would roll back restrictions on killing wildlife) and the Trump administration refused to pause their actions in the midst of a health crisis. Luckily, environmental groups have vowed to continue fighting environmental battles in court and people can still call to voice their concerns from home.

Another potential hurdle is that efforts to re-stimulate the economy after the pandemic will push environmental policies to the backburner for many politicians. They (rightfully so) will want to deal with the more immediate fallout from the pandemic as the economy is undoubtedly taking a hit.

However, politicians should see this as a time of leverage and imagination; this crisis creates an opportunity for creative legislation.

This time also allows us to reevaluate our own personal carbon footprint. Realizing that many people can easily work from home might encourage employers to offer employees the chance to do so more often. Seeing the pollution clear up in big cities might encourage people to choose more eco-friendly methods of transportation.

As we slowly rebuild life after the pandemic, we should use this unexpected boost as a launching pad for a lasting change. And hopefully, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

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