Environmental benefits from COVID-19 not likely to last

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WARRICK COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) — As millions around the globe are celebrating Earth Day, some are pointing to a positive correlation between pollution and the pandemic. Due to social distancing, there aren’t as many people on the roads which means there are less harmful emissions being put out into the air. However, as officials look for ways to reopen the economy, these benefits are likely to disappear.

Today’s Earth Day is cleaner than recent years because of social distancing. With fewer people on the roads, there has been a decrease in pollution in some areas.

“Being Earth Day I really hope that everybody pauses today and recognizes that without clean air, safe air, clean and safe water, without reasonably clean land, we don’t have much of a future,” said environmentalist John Blair.

Although air quality has been improving in recent weeks, many environmentalists say the benefits will likely be short lived.

“With the current state of events, folks are driving less so it’s definitely cutting back on emissions but it’s not slowing down climate change and other ways people harm our environment,” said Laurie Byers with Wesselman Woods.

According to the New York Times, studies have shown a long-term exposure to air pollution has too big of an impact on pubic health for these short-term benefits to provide relief.

“We have so much air pollution around here. Mainly caused by the coal fired power plants that surround us. We have so much air pollution that blue skies are something other people experience but not southern Indiana,” said Blair.

Currently, the Tri-State has four major power plants, called super polluters, all located within 30 miles of Evansville.

“This pandemic is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and how we live our lives to cut back on global warming and emissions. What footprint are you leaving behind? Are you taking that extra long hot shower, are you cutting back on driving though and maybe you’re biking more,” said Byers.

“I think that we can learn that there’s a better way, that there’s a better health that we can have whether it’s being exposed to viruses or being exposed to air pollution,” said Blair.

Both Byers and Blair say they hope this year’s Earth Day will help encourage people to turn away from fossil fuels and seek out more renewable energy alternatives, such as solar.

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(This story was originally published on April 22, 2020)

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