Skip to navigationSkip to content
FRESH AIR

Photos: Clear skies and roaming wildlife abound in some of the world’s most populated places

REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
Clear blue waters in Venice are a notable change for a city typically clogged with motorboats, tourists, and cruise ships.
  • Hope Corrigan
By Hope Corrigan

Audience editor, special projects

Around the world, pollution and greenhouse gas levels have taken a dramatic dip as travel has come to a halt. Fewer cars on highways, planes in the sky, and people commuting to work has resulted in clear skies in many of the world’s smoggiest cities. 

NASA and the European Space Agency’s pollution monitoring satellites show a 30% drop in nitrogen dioxide in China since the outbreak of coronavirus. Lack of boat traffic and cruise ship tourism has left Venice’s canals with clear water. A human-free Yosemite National Park teems with coyotes and a quadrupling bear population (paywall). From Nairobi to Los Angeles, people have taken to social media with images of smog-free skies and crystal-clear city skylines. Some fake viral posts have made the rounds, purporting dolphins in Venice’s canals and drunken elephants passed out in a tea field—but many instances of nature’s comeback have been real.

That doesn’t mean the comeback will last, though. Scientists warn that the effects of the economic shutdown caused by Covid-19 are temporary. The rebound effect once quarantine measures are lifted could result in higher levels of air pollution than before the outbreak, and some scientists say that carbon emissions are not dropping nearly enough to combat the long-term effects of climate change.

For now, during this bleak time, we can appreciate the transient drop in pollution and the return of some wildlife—and maybe even use it as inspiration for future climate action. 

REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri
The water in Venice’s canals is clearing up due to fewer tourists, motorboats, and pollution.
Osman Siddiqui
Mount Kenya can be seen from densely populated Nairobi over 85 miles away.
REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/Adnan Abidi
A then-and-now photo shows New Delhi’s India Gate war memorial on October 17, 2019 and after India’s coronavirus lockdown was instated.
Kruger National Park/Richard Sowry
Lions enjoy some rest in South Africa’s tourist-free Kruger National Park.
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Clear skies and clear highways appear in notoriously smoggy Los Angeles as residents shelter in place.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A herd of mountain goats is drawn from the rocky Great Orme to roam the empty streets in Llandudno, Wales.
AP/Ross D. Franklin
A clear skyline of downtown Phoenix, Arizona shows the effect of stay-at-home measures in the southwest US.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Deer in Nara, Japan are usually well-fed by travelers and tourists, but during quarantine they wander empty streets.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.