While COVID-19 has shut down a substantial amount of economic activity in 2020, it has done wonders for our planet. Our reduced movements have caused the biggest carbon crash ever recorded. Emissions this year will fall by four to eight percent to about two to three billion tonnes of carbon.
Lockdowns have also reduced the global electricity demand by about twenty percent according to the International Energy Agency which is predicted to have an overall six percent reduction this year compared to last year. This difference is equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India!
People are travelling significantly less both in the air and on roads. The global average road transport activity fell to fifty percent of 2019 levels by the end of March 2020. With fewer cars on the road the skies are significantly more blue. NASA satellites have documented twenty to thirty percent reductions in air pollution in major cities around the world.
One environmental economist predicted that two months in improved air quality in China could save the lives of 4000 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over the age of 70. This also reduces the demand for oil – with less than ten million barrels per day less than 2019. In Europe, the number of flights is down ninety percent and in the US it has been reduced to about fifty percent. Globally, the demand for jet fuel is down sixty-five percent. Although a pandemic is a terrible way to improve environmental health, it may provide an unexpected perspective to understand how we can impact our planet and reimagine the future.
Blue Zones of Happiness
Dan Buettner has researched for the last fifteen years where in the world are the longest living people and now he has studied where the happiest people are. He found that joy, purpose and satisfaction were the three factors which drove people in Denmark, Costa Rica and Singapore to be some of the world’s happiest places.
Normally when we think of happiness we think of money and status but in Denmark a leveling tax structure enables citizens to choose their career paths not based on status. It’s a place where a garbage man makes as much as a lawyer and most people take their full six weeks of vacation every year. In Singapore, happiness is provided by security and law enforcement. People walk in the city streets late at night where there is virtually no crime and tax laws encourage people to stay closer to their aging family members which in turn creates favorable socialization patterns. In Costa Rica religion, family and social interaction are its people’s main values – not gaining financial security or status.
Buettner argues that seeking happiness is a recipe for neurosis but you can set up your environment so that you’re more likely to become happy. Part of this environment he argues is our friends – choose your social circles wisely choosing happy people that care about you. If you want to be happy, Buettner suggests you need to create a diversified portfolio of life satisfaction, good daily emotions and purpose. Finally, if you’re living in an unhappy place just pack up and move. Shaping your environment is the sustainable way to create more happiness in your life.
A Cure for Heart Disease
Two of the greatest markers for heart disease are cholesterol and triglycerides. Could a single injection lower cholesterol and triglycerides forever? Scientists have been experimenting gene editing in monkeys and found that they were able to disable two genes that raise the risk for heart disease. Drug companies have already developed and are marketing gene inhibitors that lower cholesterol but they are only temporary. Though it will be years before human trials can begin, evidence displayed in the monkeys shows that after gene editing the monkey’s cholesterol levels dropped by 59% in two weeks and a 64% reduction in triglyceride levels. This new research gives hope that there could be no heart disease in the future! Does that mean you should indulge in a diet of burgers and pizza? No! But for those genetically predisposed to the condition of heart disease has some more hope!
With these uplifting stories take a lighter approach to your day and let yourself be happy!