Coronavirus Gives Me Hope for Climate Change

puppy worried about coronavirus
Thanks to @sea_hugger for the inspiration!

As China shut down factories and refineries, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 25% – about 150 million metric tons, which is equivalent to what the state of New York emits in a year. Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show dramatically reduced nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, which are released by cars, power plants, and factories; carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal are similarly reduced.

In Los Angeles, where I live, our air has been cleaner in the past three weeks than in previous months, and traffic is moving nearly 70% faster than the weeks before the shutdown. Despite pressure from the plastics industry to abandon zero-waste strategies, most of us are trying to stick to our refillable, reusable, perpetually washable guns.

People’s lives are at stake. These are not sacrifices we would ever make voluntarily. But are there lessons we can learn?

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How To Fight Coronawashing

“Fife Ethylene Plant” by Richard Webb is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency shocked environmentalists by announcing that companies do not need to meet environmental standards – including monitoring and reporting – during the coronavirus outbreak. This week, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 20 environmental groups petitioned the EPA for more “stringent disclosure,” calling the memo a “license to pollute” and a “clear opportunity for abuse.”

The EPA move is “essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future,” said former EPA Office of Enforcement head Cynthia Giles, and even more frightening given the fact that air pollution makes people more vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19 because it lowers our ability to fight off infection and may, in fact, help spread it.

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Can You Avoid Plastic Pollution In A Pandemic?

Last week, my husband unloaded eight paper shopping bags filled with plastic-wrapped food. After decades working on sustainability – and the last four years focused on single-use plastic, including a TEDx talk last year and another in 2017 – the sight made me physically ill. This is the third week of shelter in place for most of the country, including Los Angeles, where I live. And while most of us spent the time battling alternating bouts of terror and boredom, the plastics industry was in attack mode. As the New York Times described, “The plastic bag industry, battered by a wave of bans nationwide, is using the coronavirus crisis to try to block laws prohibiting single-use plastic.”

Coronawashing. That’s a new one.

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How To Rock A Zoom or Videoconference

Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff with zoom filter

Even before sheltering in place, I spent more time meeting colleagues and co-workers on screens than I did in person. In many cases, we’re in different countries and time zones so the communication is 100% virtual, yet on the rare occasion when we meet in person I already feel like we’re old friends. But conference calls and video chats are funny places. Little things can add up to big annoyances. Small challenges in communication can dramatically impact work flow. So I’ve put together this handy-dandy guide to help.

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