One Year On: Has Covid-19 brought Sustainability to a Halt?

[image: by Pexels]

As an extension of a post I wrote around this time last year, today I wanted to ponder how, one year on, Covid-19 has affected the progress of Sustainability as a movement. With the rise in PEE waste to the lifelong damages to the economy, the pandemic is turning life as we know it, upside down. The true extent of it is beyond what we thought it could be on that night in March.

It’s interesting to me that when I initially wrote that post, a few short months had shown various impacts. The pandemic, if you remember, was initially hoped to have been tackled within a short space of time. But, one year later there’s been little progress, when we consider we in the UK are STILL in a lockdown. It’s interesting to see how much the environment has suffered over the past 356+ days..

Let’s start with the positives (as we all need it right now!)

NO, COVID-19 hasn’t brought sustainability to a halt.

Interestingly, one area of society in which Sustainability has not only been seriously tackled but can be defined as a positive shift in mentality for most, is there has been less Food Waste as a result of increased time spent in our homes. UK households have reportedly waste 1/3 less food than they usually would, with 70% wanting to continue the pattern. [1]

Adding to this, for the majority of the population there’s been a shift in work pattern. Working from home in place and commuting scrapped. It has lead to large corporations changing their policies and introducing flexible working patterns. This can only be seen in a positive light. As with flexibility comes positive shifts in mental health. As well as with a reduction in travel, with more home working, hopefully a reduction in air pollution.

Compellingly, Germany recently reported the pandemic helped the country reach its climate targets for the first time in three decades. They are seeing 40.8% less emission compared to 1990. [1.2]

YES, COVID-19 has brought sustainability to a halt.

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, medical waste is the areas in which it could be said Sustainability has halted. There has been an explosion of single-use surgical masks clogging our oceans. More masks than jelly fish being an often-used term. These masks reportedly have a 450 year life span and are said to “have unprecedented environmental consequences for our planet” [2] Although positive signs are beginning to develop as NHS Cornwall introduce a PPE recycling machine, with an estimated tonne being recycled each month [3]

Furthermore, the European Environment Agency states that despite some positive impacts seen such as a reduction in air pollution and greenhouses gases from the Pandemic, these are likely to be short-term with the increase of reliance of single-use plastics causing critically damaging effects. [4] Not only this, but with governments around the world eager to get life moving once more. Air travel is top of the agenda, meaning long-term it is highly like air pollution will once more see a gradual rise.

With this, the pause in ‘normal life’ is seeing devastating repercussions to our economy. The world suffering its worst recession in 90 years. This is causing experts to predicted the UN’s target for its Sustainable Development Goals (2030) could see a 10-year delay. This affects us all globally with it having “significant destabilising effects on economies and societies, such as notable increases in migration” [5]

To Conclude

It is clear that COVID-19 is having short-term peaks and troughs. But if any lesson is taken from this pandemic, is that extensive re-modelling is needed for our society. To tackle the pending climate disaster. Is has given us a glimpse into a slower world and what can happen. It should be critically analysed by those at the top, the decision-makers. With continuing progress for a sustainable world, not halt it any further.


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