PETALING JAYA: As people wait anxiously for the arrival of a vaccine that promises to turn the tide in the Covid-19 war, environmentalists are expecting a change too, but for the worse.
Environmental group EcoKnights expresses fear the gains Mother Nature has made through the restrictions on movement may be lost quickly with a total return to pre-Covid-19 conditions.
For starters, industries are likely to ramp up production to make up for the losses this year, raising the threat of increased pollution on the environment, EcoKnights vice-president Amlir Ayat told theSun.
“We can’t help but worry about the repercussions of a heightened manufacturing process and the harm it will cause to the environment.”
Amlir believes the pressure on the environment in the post-Covid-19 era could be even worse than it was before the pandemic.
“A lot of resources will be used to meet increasing demands, and apart from depleting our natural resources, it will also cause the release of more pollutants.”
He noted with irony that the pandemic is actually a blessing of sorts. All over the world, there were reports of Mother Nature taking back her turf. In Chile, a puma was reportedly spotted wandering the empty streets of its capital Santiago.
In Malaysia, the rare sight of a family of four elephants lumbering past a petrol kiosk in Terengganu went viral on social media.
Amlir said lifestyle changes to meet the demands of a global pandemic are not likely to last once the Covid-19 war has been won.
“There may be an increase in awareness (of the benefits to the environment) but I don’t expect it to have a significant impact on life post-Covid-19.”
He said a more sustainable approach is to motivate people into adopting environmentally-friendly practices.
Amlir said this can be done by disseminating information on the human-environment relationship more widely and enhancing knowledge on measures that can be taken to achieve a better quality of life.
He said the government should help to nurture a generation that is not only knowledgeable in but also committed to strong and positive values, and who can be motivated towards practising a sustainable lifestyle.
“Otherwise, we will continue to be forced to take ad hoc measures. Education is the only way to achieve sustainability,” Amlir stressed.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail agreed that rolling back industrial manufacturing processes has helped to improve air quality.
“What’s missing is scientific data to support these claims,” he noted.
He said MNS will resume its activities in educating the public on environmental matters and conservation activities.
“While we already have the full support of government agencies, we also need corporate backing to make our environmental education efforts more effective,” he said.
Environmentalist Gurmit Singh said it will take some time for things to return to normal even after the vaccination exercise is launched.
“Nonetheless, I agree that we will eventually return to the pre-Covid-19 conditions and the well-being of our environment will again be threatened,” he said.
“Pollution and climate change are two of the most common problems we face now, with or without the presence of a virus. People just don’t seem to learn from their mistakes and there is the chance that we will return to the bad old ways,” he added.
However Gurmit, who is Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia chairman, believes that big businesses could eventually become more eco-friendly because their actions and policies reflect upon them.
“The challenge is to get consumers to adopt eco-friendly ways. We should stop being selfish and only care when it affects us personally.”