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From the President - May 2020

Thursday, June 04, 2020 11:31 AM | Anonymous

Dear Fellow Members, I hope you are all keeping safe and well as we cope with the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic is redefining our relationship with physical space: distance, proximity, spread, hot spots, and scale - in a word Geography – everyone is concerned with where. We are thinking about it on personal and local scales, navigating supermarket aisles and converting rooms into home offices. We are dealing with it at the regional scale, moving medical equipment from places with surplus to places in need. We listen to reports from epidemiologists functioning at national and global scales, as they work to understand how a virus could travel so far so fast and cause such devastation.

Australia does seem to be coping well compared to some other parts of the world. As at this writing, our daily number of new cases has decreased to the point where some states have had no new cases and the government is planning to ease some restrictions.

If there are any positive outcomes of this pandemic, one, surely, has to be the reduction in air pollution around the world. Indeed, this is observable from space.

Satellites are a key component of global efforts to tackle air pollution. Data from many major cities show a strong correlation between reduced levels of air pollutants and actions taken to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air pollution around the world has dropped as countries scale back economic activity and drastically reduce travel by road and air. An important and encouraging lesson is that when we remove the sources of pollution, unhealthy air clears up almost overnight. As far as the environment and our health is concerned, this is an excellent thing. However, the lockdown in economic activity cannot continue and scientists warn that, unfortunately, the reprieve in air quality will only be short term. A surge in emissions as economies recover is likely to leave the environment again worse off. Achieving the inevitable transition to a low-carbon-low-polluting future is a major challenge. A weak global economy may threaten investment in renewable energy sources and associated long-term jobs, particularly given the present availability of cheap oil and lobbying to develop more new coal mines for profits in the short-term.

“Could governments and economies view this clean-air episode as an opportunity to begin to re-align policies towards a sustainable future?”

Our cities may again breathe clean air hopefully sooner rather than later.


Melissa Lunden and Meghan Thurlow The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution (March 31, 2020)

New York Post China’s skies are briefly clearer while factories stay shut March 3, 2020

Gabriel da Silva, COVID-19 drop in pollution to be short-lived  Engineering & Technology 30 March 2020

RGSQ President Dr. Iraphne Childs

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