In our fight with COVID-19 what should be the priority, environment or the economy?
COVID-19 has drastically affected pollution levels. For the first time in years, you can see the blue sky from New Delhi as the air clears up, the fishes in the canals of Venice as the water clears up, and turtles in the beaches of Florida as the people clear out.
In China, carbon dioxide emissions reduced by over 25% just a few weeks into lockdown. In New York, carbon monoxide emissions reduced by over 50% compared to last year. While the earth enjoys the effects of reduced carbon emissions, we ask the question:
When the safety threat is over, should governments relax environmental regulations to help restart the economy?
“While the environment is important, the economic situation is dire and should be prioritized”
1. While the environment is important, the economic situation is dire and should be prioritized. We will need bailouts and easier regulations to help protect jobs. Airlines and oil companies employ more than 20 million people directly today, and those jobs are at risk. There are millions of more jobs that are indirectly reliant on those industries, from suppliers to customers. Up to 500 million more people could be facing poverty. What is the point of being more environmentally sustainable, if the price to pay is human hunger and suffering?
2. A realistic approach to climate change is not just about reducing emissions, but having the capacity to deal with the changes. Countries require strong infrastructure, welfare policies and healthcare facilities to be able to deal with the effects of climate change. When a hurricane hits a city, how people fare there depends largely on the city’s financial ability to provide people with assistance. Quick economic growth is required to deal with the environmental desolation in the first place.
“The economy is important, but the environmental situation is even more dire.”
1. COVID-19 is here today due to deficiencies in wildlife protection laws, so if we relax regulations further after COVID-19, it would seem as though we have learned nothing. The economy is important, but the environmental situation is even more dire. We have about 10 years before the impact of climate change becomes irreversible. While we can make policies to support workers directly, it should not be through relaxing regulations. 4 million people die annually from air pollution alone each year. Environmentally friendly policies do not just help to save lives in the future, they are needed in order to help save lives today.
2. While the panic about the economic situation is understandable, environmentally unsustainable growth is not a wise decision even from an economic perspective. In our rush to feed mouths today, we must not make this earth uninhabitable for future generations. It is as though we are in a cycle. We justify environmental damage because it is necessary to alleviate poverty, but in the process the environmental damage causes even more poverty. We need to break the cycle for long term sustainable economic growth.