The outbreak of Coronavirus has led to unprecedented changes to the way we live our lives as the world battles one of the most serious virus epidemics of the century.
Smartphones and social media mean we cannot escape the barrage of breaking news in this rapidly escalating public health crisis. In an era of information, it is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed, to focus on the negativity that dominates the news, and to forget to look for the good.
Here, we have put together seven positive and feel-good news stories from around the world that you may have missed. They prove that, even amid uncertainty and chaos, there are many reasons to find hope.
1. Our air is cleaner and emissions are down
The unparalleled measures introduced to contain coronavirus in countries around the world, have had a significant positive impact on the environment. As millions of people start working from home, flights are cancelled and global economic and industrial activity ramps down, we are seeing a reduction in emissions across the world. With a drop in dangerous air pollutants, the air we breathe is cleaner than it has been in years!
This can be seen most prominently in China, where a reduction in coal and crude oil use has led to a 25% drop in CO2 emissions across a four week period, which experts suggest will result in an overall fall of 1% in China’s carbon emissions this year. There have been significant drops in nitrogen dioxide in both China and Northern Italy, following reduced industrial activity and car journeys.
Meanwhile, in New York, traffic levels in the city were estimated to be down 35% compared with a year ago. This has meant that emissions of carbon monoxide, mainly due to cars and trucks, have fallen by around 50%. There has also been a 5-10% drop in CO2 in New York, with scientists predicting that by May – when CO2 emissions are at their peak due to the decomposition of leaves – the levels recorded might be at the lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.
Professor Róisín Commane of Columbia University has said the air is “the cleanest I have ever seen it”. With a range of emissions across many countries likely following the same downward path, this is definitely something to feel hopeful about!
2. Wildlife is returning to the Venice canals
Even more encouraging environmental effects have been seen in Venice where, with the tourists having gone home and the locals in self-confinement, wildlife has reclaimed the space once occupied by humans.
In the absence of motorboat taxis and tourist boats speeding through the Venice canals, the waters have regained their clarity to reveal shoals of fish, crabs and plant life. Ducks have been seen making a nest near the Piazalle Roma and swans have been photographed swimming on the crystal-clear waters. Even dolphins have been spotted swimming by the port of Cagliari, the capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia.
Gloria Beggiato, owner of the Metrapole Hotel in St Mark’s square, has said “we Venetians have the feeling that nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city,” with hopes that this lockdown has been an opportunity to strive for a better balance of tourism in the city going forwards.
Editor’s note: This story was later debunked. The Venetian canal water, nonetheless, was clearer because of the decrease in boat activity.
3. The Australian wildfires have been extinguished
There have been other positive news stories, reporting environmental developments worth feeling optimistic about, that have been easy to miss amongst the continuous Coronavirus updates.
The Australian wildfires are finally out. At the beginning of March, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service announced that there were no longer any active bush or grass fires in New South Wales, following a period of heavy rain and cold weather. New South Wales was the state hardest hit by the massive wildfires which had raged for over 240 days, scorching millions of acres in the country. All Australian bushfires are now extinguished.
4. India’s ports are going renewable
In further promising news for the planet, India has announced this month that a number of its busiest ports and harbours will begin running on entirely renewable energy sources, as the country makes steps to dramatically increase its renewable capacity.
In a significant move in the battle against climate change, all day-to-day operations of the country’s state-owned ports, including supplying power to docked ships, will be powered by a combination of solar and wind power. This is a brilliant step, proving developing nations are pulling their weight in reducing their impact on the environment and hopefully inspiring other countries to follow in their footsteps.
5. The tampon tax is being abolished in the U.K.
A positive news story came from the U.K this month when Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, confirmed in his budget that the government would scrap the controversial tampon tax. This will abolish VAT on all women’s sanitary products from 2021, which currently stands at 5%.
The decision marks a victory in the 20-year campaign by women’s groups against 50-year-old VAT rules that once categorised tampons as “non-essential, luxury items”.
6. Penguins in an aquarium in Chicago have had a chance experience “the other side of the glass”
A feel-good video that went viral on Twitter showed the penguins of Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on “the other side of the glass”, leaving their enclosures and visiting other attractions at the aquarium.
Since the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago closed to visitors to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the penguins have been allowed to leave their habitat and explore the rest of the aquarium. The aquarium posted to Twitter a heart-warming video of one of the penguins, named Wellington, meeting some fish in the Amazon exhibit.
The aquarium told the Chicago Tribune that “without guests in the building, caretakers are getting creative in how they provide enrichment to animals. Introducing new experiences, activities, foods and more to keep them active, encourage them to explore, problem-solve and express natural behaviours”.
7. Companies and businesses are coming together to support Coronavirus relief strategies
Collective efforts by companies in supporting Coronavirus relief strategies are proving that, even in dark times, kindness can prevail.
Whether it’s hotels opening their doors to NHS workers who need to isolate themselves from family members, takeaway chains offering discounts and free meals to frontline medical staff, or supermarkets setting specific opening hours for the elderly and vulnerable to shop in safety, away from panic buyers; these acts of kindness are popping up all over the place.
Within the distillation industry, brands are temporarily using their production lines to help make more of the highly effective alcohol-based agents. For example, BrewDog has announced that it will now be making hand sanitiser at its distillery in Scotland to try to help as many people as possible stay safe, and Deeside Distillery in Scotland is making hand sanitiser to give to frontline and primary care providers have stocks, including nurseries, schools, care homes and medical centres.