The Echo – Climate Newsletter # 3: Pollution & Change in the Time of Coronavirus

Welcome to the Weekly ECCO  — A roundup of local, regional and international climate and environmental news. This week we’re continuing to focus on environmental news relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, looking at air quality, imagining a world post-corona and how human activity (or lack thereof) fundamentally affects our planet.

Eswatini has entered the next stage of our battle with the pandemic, as we sadly recorded our first coronavirus death this week, and our 19th confirmed case overall case. Stay safe and observe the required hygiene and social distancing measures. Please consider how you can assist vulnerable community members in the trying times ahead. 

Air quality is improving, but what does that mean?

  • Pollution levels have dropped dramatically in some of the world’s major cities  — mostly due to huge reductions in traffic, factory use and energy production.
  • Our skies have cleared up significantly as passenger air travel has plummeted by almost 95%. Is it time to rethink our “addiction” to an industry forecasted to contribute to a quarter of global emissions by 2050? What will this mean for the aviation industry, or countries like Eswatini with already underutilised airline infrastructure?
Landed for good: as passenger travel has been hit hard, South Africa’s already struggling SAA will likely not survive the pandemic.  Image source: Frank Kovalchek.

Fossil fuels take a huge hit

Will things change?

  • Despite strong calls for post-corona politico-economic landscapes to be fundamentally transformed through stronger environmental action, there are changes taking place (such as relaxing emission limits and difficulties in protecting forests) that are unfortunately moving in the opposite direction.
  • Change is unavoidable, but in which direction will things go? Many are optimistic that a post-coronavirus world will bring about radical changes needed to address the climate emergency  — whilst others fear economic damage will set climate efforts back to square one as the world goes back to “business as usual” with extra vigour to recoup lost time and profits

Waste Not

  • As COVID-19 brings unsustainable practices into focus, many are rethinking how much technological waste we throw away. People are fighting huge companies (like Apple) that knowingly design their products to break or become obsolete long before they need to.

Animal Rights

  • An ongoing environmental talking point around coronavirus is our use (or abuse) of animals. Coronavirus may be the tip of the iceberg if we do not drastically reduce illicit wildlife trade, habitat encroachment, and inhumane factory farming.
Human activities increase our own likelihood of being exposed to pathogens. Image source: UNEP. 

Sustainable Eating Habits

  • Eswatini remains heavily reliant on food imports but coronavirus could usher us, out of necessity, into more localised, sustainable food systems. Local farms will need to reinvent supply models but they could really become the near-future heroes of our society.  

Climate Transparency in SA 

Serious Climate Pledges Around the World

“When we overcome the [health] crisis, we will enter a period of reactivation that must be sustainable… This is a key moment, which is why we are presenting our new [national climate plan] with ambitious goals and commitments that allow us to focus our recovery plans on a clear objective: advancing at pace…towards a low-emission and climate-resilient economy, with significant social, environmental and economic benefits to improve standards of living.”

Chile has already embarked on a massive solar project. Image source: Ministerio de Agricultura Chile.

Online Events 

  • To mark the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day,  a massive online mobilisation  — Earth Day Live — is happening on Wednesday. It includes online events across the planet and actions you can take from your home
  • At 4 pm on Tuesday, April 21st watch a webinar on the “The New Rights of Peasants Declaration: A Landmark for the Right to Food Struggle and Climate Justice” Register for the webinar here
  • Doctors Without Borders is hosting a webcast  — Health, Humanity, and the Climate Emergency on April 21st. 

To keep you company during physical distancing, the World Wildlife Fund has compiled animals that are self-isolation experts! Here’s our collection of solitary animals native to Eswatini who’re examples to follow when it comes to keeping physical distance. Let’s appreciate this biodiversity that’s an important protection against pathogens. Many of these animals are threatened due to human activity. From top left: Long Crested Eagle, Caracal, Aardvark, Flap Neck Chameleon, Leopard, African Rock Python, Oribi, White-Tailed Mongoose. 

Image credits: Albert Herbigneaux, Allan Hopkins, Gopal Vijayaraghavan, Bernard DUPONT, Lip Kee, Nik Borrow, Birger Kühnel via Flickr and Creative Commons.

If you’re looking for something productive and environmentally friendly to do during lockdown, consider re-wilding your garden or lawn into an eco-friendly space. We need to remind ourselves how to be environmentally aware climate-citizensSouth Africa’s Climate Reality team has some tips

Send feedback or ideas to Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to articles (particularly Eswatini-focused news and information). Stay safe and healthy by continuing to follow the WHO guidelines for correct personal and public health measures

— All the best, 

Maru & Dane