The unexpected benefits of staying indoors for our environment


Waters are clearer than they have been in decades as Italy’s shelter in place policy continues. Photo Credit: Marco Capovilla

Ava Weinreb

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on hold, as everyone practices social distancing and self quarantine in order to limit the spread of the virus. While many now only see within the four walls of their home, the world’s natural beauty is thriving in response to the lack of transportation, tourism and overall pollution. 

As Italy hunkers down for their (now) fourth week of quarantine, the famous canals of Venice remain empty. In the absence of tourism and canal transportation, the overall water quality and pollutants levels are at an all time low. For the first time in decades canal waters are clear; fish and even dolphins are now entering the canals as water quality proceeds to improve and motorized traffic is at a halt. 

In addition to the return of some of Italy’s aquatic species, air quality and nitrogen dioxide levels have also seen a steep plumet over the past month. Nitrogen dioxide is created mainly from engine exhaust and factory output, and is known to irritate and inflame the lungs, even causing or worsening symptoms of asthma. Not only does this gas harm people, it is also a very dangerous greenhouse gas which traps heat and wears away at earth’s protective ozone atmospheric layer, increasing the effects of climate change. Since the country’s lockdown, levels of carbon dioxide and other various greenhouse gasses have dropped dramatically, alleviating some of the harsh effects of built up gasses on the environment. 

Italy is not the only place where significant drops in greenhouse gasses have been observed. China, the epicenter of COVID-19, has been on lockdown for several months in their attempts to control the virus. Similarly, China has seen a drop in toxic gas levels that have been recorded and increasing for years.

 As the world’s largest country for production and exports, the buildup of gasses such as carbon dioxide are heavily concentrated due to the excessive use of vehicles, machines, factories and dozens of other harmful mechanisms that emit toxic gasses. NASA closely monitors levels of greenhouse gasses and its effect on ozone layers, and since the shelter in place policy, record low numbers of toxins have been recorded from space, reaching almost a complete emittance of the harmful substance.         

The concentration of green house gases, such as carbon dioxide, has considerably decreased over China as the country proceeds with self quarantine. Photo Credit: NASA

While other countries like China and Italy may seem to be the only locations in effect, the United States as additionally registered low numbers for carbon dioxide levels. In San Francisco, CA levels of greenhouse gasses are recorded 40% lower than last year’s calculations. New York has experienced a 28% decrease in toxic gas levels, and Seattle has seen a 32% drop in levels as well. As the state of Georgia continues its recent act of self quarantine, state officials as well as the EPA and NASA will continue to record the gas levels over our state, and we can expect to see a drop, especially around the city of Atlanta. 

As we continue to binge Netflix and pick up a new hobby during our time in quarantine, please notice the beauty of nature and how severe our impact on its health and sustainability truly is.  While quarantine is not forever, please remember the momentous strides the earth’s health has taken and push to keep it this way as we soon resume to our normal livelihoods, our impact is greater than we realize.