Recently, I have started thinking about the environmental impacts COVID-19 has had. Certainly, there has been a reduction in emissions, but feedback loops increasing the effect of climate change are in place.
During this pandemic, I have read about improperly disposed medical waste, like gloves and masks, in parking lots and how it could spread disease. In some hospitals, there are shortages of protective medical equipment, and one article talked about increasing reusable products.
On Facebook, I read how the U.S., Canadian, and other governments are cutting or eliminating environmental enforcement and monitoring requirements. On the Environmental Registry there are still permit applications. Locally, I’ve seen how spending on future environmental programs was deferred from Peterborough’s budget. In some municipalities, garbage bag limits have been increased as people spend more time in their homes. Will this be offset by a reduction in industrial waste from industrial and commercial waste? Our landfills are still filling up to capacity. In Ontario, time-of-use pricing was eliminated at a time when conservation habits should be encouraged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs later on. In The Guardian, there was an article about climate monitoring and plastics.
I also read that the Coastal GasLink is still being constructed. The Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement appears to have not disappeared from mainstream media, but it has just moved online and by phone, with many posts and messaging focusing on the risk of mancamp workers spreading COVID-19 alongside previous concerns about violence.
The world’s climate scientists have warned that the world has 10 years to act. Perhaps at the end of this, environmental discourses will increase and there will be positive environmental impacts, but we should hold our leaders accountable during this time.