Experts say the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are helping the earth heal

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
50th Anniversary of Earth Day: COVID-19 pandemic's effect on the earth
From the air we breathe to the animals we share the earth with, environmentalists say as we stay home the planet is getting a chance to heal.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

And from our city to the planet as a whole, the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on humans, but it has had profound effects on our planet.

From the air we breathe, to the animals we share the earth with, to the oceans and open spaces, environmental leaders say as we stay home, the planet is getting an unprecedented chance to heal.

We are also getting a unique chance to appreciate the beauty around us.

"Sometimes it takes a crisis like this to help people realize what they have taken for granted," says Philly Parks and Rec Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell.

Locally, that means a renewed appreciation of our beautiful parks, which have seen a sharp increase in visitors.

"There's such a need for people to be outdoors and connect with nature, so we are definitely seeing a huge usage of the parks," Ott Lovell says.

50 years ago, on April 22, the Belmont Plateau played a pivotal role in what would become Earth Day.

"Young people here in Philadelphia organized the first earth week here in the country back in 1970," says Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

As as we mark the 50th anniversary, the COVID-19 crisis has provided a silver lining for our planet.

NASA has been tracking the changes. From the clearing of the canals in Venice, Italy, to the what's called 'cloud brightening' above Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

"We can see images of the earth thriving and adjusting and we humans are understanding how we can be responsible curators of this precious planet," says Douglas Terrier, Chief Technologist, NASA.

Here in Philadelphia, with more cars parked, experts say carbon monoxide levels are down 25 percent. The air is easier to breathe.

"Since the stay at home order went into effect on March 17, we have a reduction in air pollution in the city," says Philadelphia's Health Commissioner Tom Farley.

The one thing on hold with this crisis is the city's ban on plastic bags, which was set to go into effect in July.

"We are pushing it back to January 1, 2021 to ease the burden on businesses and consumers," Kenney says. "This is not an announcement we want to make during Earth Week."

Check out NASA's Earth Week activities here.

Check out The city of Philadelphia's Earth Week activities here.