If you're looking to find any silver lining in this pandemic, try not to spin it as some environmentalist miracle.
As the news becomes increasingly depressing, and COVID-19 continues to take lives with no foreseeable end in sight, there's been an attempt to manufacture some positivity out of this global nightmare by highlighting and rebeautifying our empty world.
But once you really examine the initial good news, any real positivity falls apart fast.
It should be acknowledged that most all of the articles pointing out reductions in pollution note that these reductions will only be temporary, as one article from NPR did back in mid-March. It's obvious why: once people return to work in factories, especially to "make up for [China's] economic losses," as the aforementioned NPR article put it, the pollution will return.
It's likely that once people, both in China and elsewhere, can somewhat safely leave their homes and return to work, we'll see pollution rise from people driving more from place to place (or worse, flying more from place to place) rather than working from home, as we are now.
Granted, encouraging people to take fewer flights and take more rides on public transport is absolutely something we should keep doing once people can actually start going outside after this crisis ends. What we're seeing now shouldn't be taken as a stop — it's a pause.
Regarding the return of animal life to the city, it's been tinged. The story about dolphins in Venice has long since been debunked and memed to death on Twitter. Even the stories that are true, such as the presence of singing birds in urban areas, are still, like less pollution, temporary. The presence of these animals can also present challenges to urban environments that haven't been constructed to responsibly allow these creatures into a concrete world, as discussed in a previous Loyolan piece.
Let's not also forget that on top of the lack of real environmental progress in the chaos of this pandemic, we're seeing true environmental regress being swept under the rug. At home, the Environmental Protection Agency under Andrew Wheeler has been suspending enforcement of companies monitoring pollution during this pandemic, along with rolling back and methane emission regulations while no one notices.
Even if we disregard the fleeting nature of falling emissions, the renewed attacks on environmental regulations and the lies about animals retaking our cities, the minor successes of blue skies in Beijing shouldn't be a blueprint for how we can protect the planet.
Yes, the pictures of smogless cities are a beautiful distraction from the global plague upending literally all of our normal lives.
However, we shouldn't let these clickbait articles distract us from the real environmental work that still needs to be done, and we definitely shouldn't let our plan for a greener planet be one that excludes humans from the equation.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.