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Social and Environmental Impact of COVID-19

AUTHORS: Dilraj Dhillon, Mehr Minhas

(Students in Class 11, Vivek High School, Chandigarh)

As the world burns literally and metaphorically and lakhs of people are displaced, economies are crashing like a fragile house of cards, thousands are dying each day and social and environmental issues are covered in a blanket of ignorance and unaccountability, we need to stand up and do something.

The corona virus outbreak came into light on December 31st, 2019, when China informed the World Health Organization about its spread in Wuhan. Gradually it spread to all parts of the world and has drastically affected the Global society and has hindered the customary functioning of Society. This pandemic has either entrapped people within their homes or it has made it a struggle for people to reach their homes. In both the cases, it has ceased the default functioning of the society.

Social Impact    

Various sociological impacts of this unprecedented crisis are:-

GENERAL IMPACT:

Coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc in the society and has forced people to take certain measures which though gradually but immensely are affecting human lives. Social distancing, self-isolation and travel restrictions forced a decrease in the workforce across all economic sectors and caused many jobs to be lost. Schools have closed down, and the need of commodities and manufactured products has decreased.

In contrast, the need for medical supplies has significantly increased. All this has led to various problems like depression, etc. The education of students has been hampered acutely. Man, who was once considered a social animal, has now been forced to curb socialisation. The disease has rooted a long-lasting fear and trepidation in the minds of people about the disease, due to which the interactions among the society have stopped, thus rendering the society dysfunctional.

MIGRATION CRISIS: 

This pandemic has caused a humungous migration problem worldwide. This threat is on its peak in countries like India and Venezuela. According to the World Bank, The lockdown in India has impacted the livelihoods of a large proportion of the country, nearly 40 million internal migrants. Around 50,000–60,000 moved from urban centres to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days. This poses a great threat in terms of spread of the virus and scarcity of food in migration camps. This situation has worsened to such an extent that around 383 people have died in India just due to starvation, lack of medical facilities or exhaustion while migrating from one place to another. A similar situation is witnessed in other parts of the world as well. For example, due to various economic problems, the migration situation is worsening in Venezuela, hence increasing the peril of contagion.

XENOPHOBIA UPSURGE:

Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen a flurry of reports citing racist, xenophobic acts against people of East Asian and southeast Asian descent, especially the Chinese or those with similar physical characteristics. This discrimination is not just prevalent in the common society, but has also taken a political dimension. World famous leaders like Donald Trump have used terms like ‘Chinese Virus’ for the disease which provokes feelings of being discriminated among various communities. In Italy, the civil society group Lunaria since February has collected over 50 reports and media accounts of assaults, verbal harassment, bullying, and discrimination against people of Asian descent. Due to this, people in democratic countries like India are being deprived of their fundamental rights in terms of their freedom to move freely, right to access to public places, etc. There have been various reports which expose huge numbers of hate crimes being carried out just due the current scenario.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND DIVORCE RATES:

The pandemic has not only posed a huge threat to the health of individuals but has also shattered the family lives of thousands. It is a common observation that when a group of people interact extensively and keep their interactions limited to each other, there arise conflicts in ideas. The lockdowns imposed in various parts of the world has made this phenomena take its worst form. Cases of domestic violence are rising rapidly globally during this phase. For example, in the city of Jingzhou of China, there has been a three times increase in domestic violence cases. In India, the Delhi Police received 2,446 complaints from women within one week regarding various crimes like rape, domestic violence, etc. This shows the immense magnitude of the predicament of abuse amidst the lockdown. Not only have women been targeted but children, men and members of the LGBTQ+ community have also fallen prey to this prejudice. The current situation has shattered the marital lives of numerous couples as well. Due to lockdowns, the divorce rates all across the globe have shot up swiftly. A Chinese lawyer gave a statement that the more you spend time with someone, the more flaws you start finding in that person. This is the reason why divorce cases in Shanghai have risen by 25%. Similarly, in India as well many websites have shown a 20% rise in the number of divorce cases.

All the citizens of this world, as a part of the global community need to address all these sociological problems so that not only are we able to eradicate the highly contagious disease but also lay the foundation of a prosperous society and emerge as a united front committed to make this world a better place to live.

 As we give a spotlight to the sociological problems as a subsequent effect of the Covid 19, we need to also share the stage with the environment and animals who cannot stand up for themselves. The environment has been exploited since the start of the ages and we need to address the effect the Covid-19 has on them.

Environmental Impact

GREEN HOUSE GAS EMISSIONS:

The levels of greenhouse gases have gone down drastically since decades in many parts of the world. The greenhouse gas emissions increase by about 1% annually, but this year, they plunged 5% – 7% which is an incredibly high number. Right now the world is in recession and will eventually get back up. This extremely short duration of decrease in GHG levels will not change the situation at hand. When companies and industries are fully functioning, which is predicted by many economists to happen soon, the improved environment will deteriorate in no time. Hence, all this will end in vain.

WILDLIFE:   

There has been an increase in poaching and illegal trade of animals and wildlife in a few countries. Cambodia, Vietnam and China like always have remained the hotspots for illegal trade in ivory and pangolin and pangolin alone creating an industry worth billions of dollars. The recent ban in china on the sale of any wildlife along with the reduced patrolling in many areas has brought this issue to rise again. The traders have tried to take advantage of the pandemic, but due to lockdowns in certain areas the trade has slowed as well. Now, as there is a ban on sale of wildlife in china, illegal trade for food specialties has increased. This is creating an enormous black market for the sale of non aquatic wild animals. But this law has no provisions to stop or decrease trade for fur and medicine. Illegal traffickers can use fur and medicine as a means to trade in exotic animals.

Since the vigilance and protection of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks around the globes has reduced, poachers are coming to an advantage. Already endangered animals are at a very high risk of becoming critically endangered. But right now, the biggest threat to extinction of some species is not the poachers, it is Covid-19. Five tigers and three lions have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Bronx Zoo, New York making this a very serious concern for all animals around the world. Wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and zoos consist of endangered animals for the sole reason of protecting them. If the wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and zoos fail to protect animals, then some serious action needs to be taken. Vets need to be deployed and tests need to start as soon as possible.

Since many companies are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy due to the ongoing pandemic, the government might have to bail out some. While doing this, the government can add conditions and clauses to their agreement where in the transportation, food, airline companies abide by some green laws. Along with this, there should be frequent testing in all zoos since animal to animal, human to animal and animal to human transmission is possible.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL:

Lockdowns enforced in many countries has led processing and disposal of garbage to hit a bump which is leading to mountains of garbage in many areas. Thus, it is causing more room for diseases. In countries like South Africa and India, the recycling and processing process has stopped and is causing major concerns for the environment and the health of citizens. Waste needs to be disposed in a better way since it is unsure who and what is infected. A  Covid-19 positive person’s waste can be touched, handled by workers without knowing due to the asymptomatic cases. 

The demand for disposable masks and gloves has broken all the ceilings and is aiming for the stars. The demand increases each and every day. But this is also creating a huge problem for the environment. The disposal of these products is not satisfactory. Re usable cotton masks and rubber gloves should be heavily promoted and used.

The effects of covid-19 are beyond us. They are affecting the majestic lions and our petite squirrels. As we learn to stand together, we need to stand up for the environment and the wildlife too. We are accountable for the effects on them and it’s time we realize the part we play in their demise. Humans, animals and the environment should work together and break the curse of the inevitable apocalypse since 2012.

(Information has been collected from BBC, un.org, New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, The Hindu and The Times of India)

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