Climate Conversations Amid a Pandemic

Cailin Giles
July 24, 2020

Earlier this year, after people around the world were spending more time in their homes than they were used to, evidence of change started to emerge with the planet. Not long after major cities and metropolitan areas around the world shut down, there was a noticeable change in air pollution. Carbon emissions had dropped by 10% in New York City and 25% in parts of China. 


Since March, social media has taken several opportunities to bring climate change into a prominent position in our conversations, whether it be through memes, social media challenges, or Netflix shows. 

The “nature is healing, we are the virus” meme came at a time of constant misinformation around the virus. The trend started after images with false captions about the changes in certain ecosystems were being spread around. Of course the internet took its chance to poke fun at these tweets and created this new meme template.

Electric scooters found freedom:

Rubber ducks roamed free:

And even Nessie returned home:

There always seems to be some sort of challenge circulating on a corner of the internet, but the one that emerges each July is one we can all try to get behind. Plastic Free July began in 2011 with the goal of reducing the daily usage of single-use plastics. People have the opportunity to participate in the challenge for as long as they like whether it be a day, week, or month. The challenge is global, having originated in Australia, and plastic-free courses are hosted all over the world. 

I didn’t realize how many single-use plastics are in my daily routine until I heard and read about this challenge. Things like shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, and trash bags are all things that can be switched out for more compostable alternatives. 

Most recently, climate change conversations have popped up again regarding the new Netflix show Down to Earth, which features actor Zac Efron. I don’t know how many people on my feed would have chosen to watch this had he not been featured, but if that’s what it takes to get conversations on climate change rolling, then so be it. 

Having media that is easy to comprehend and digest is insanely valuable for having conversations about climate change and wildlife conservation. I’ve taken advantage of the documentaries available to me on various streaming platforms over the past few months to learn more about how the planet is changing. So many sources that discuss these topics are full of scientific evidence that just goes directly over my head.

This show wouldn’t be my first choice for learning about how to live a more sustainable life, but it is a good jumping off point to get others interested. Having a show like Down to Earth, which isn’t trying to tell its viewer what is or isn’t the solution for change, opens up a door for people to decide that they want to do more. For some people it could be as simple as sharing an infographic on social media to their friends and families, but for others it could be learning how to convert to a more sustainable lifestyle. Any step for a cleaner planet is a good one. 

Of course, the recent decrease in our air pollution is not permanent. The lockdown has played its role in that change. With the amount of people working from home and abstaining from travel, transportation went way down. The virus also caused many industrial plants and factories to close their doors. As states and other countries begin to reopen, our air pollution numbers will increase as well. 

The pandemic has caused people to look at how they live, how much trash they produce, and question the ways they can pivot to become more sustainable. I believe that small changes can make a difference. Maybe if we start to learn more about how we can help our environment, that change might follow.