The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways big and small—from mask wearing and social distancing to childcare and videoconferencing—imposing fundamental shifts in how we lived, worked, attended school, and interacted with our loved ones. Not only did the pandemic change our individual lives; it changed the Earth, too. For example, less driving and a slow-down in factory production meant fewer carbon emissions, resulting in cleaner air. In Florida, loggerhead turtles laid more eggs thanks to deserted beaches. Wild boar roamed the streets of Barcelona and mountain goats wandered through a town in Wales. Changes in human activity also led to decreased ocean pollution, stressors on global fisheries, and human-caused seismic activity.
Although any changes in air quality or climate change are expected to be short-lived or minimal as emissions return to pre-lockdown levels, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Earth have provided the scientific community with lasting lessons. For scientists who study the environment, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a scientific field called GeoHealth, which examines the complex connection between humans, health, and the Earth.
For example, GeoHealth researchers look at levels of pollutants which, depending on location, shed light on potential strategies for reducing pollution, but also can reveal persistent disparities in air pollution, exposure, and health outcomes.
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