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'The Earth Is Breathing Better': Planet Benefits From Social Distancing On Earth Day

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, planet earth has actually benefited as a result of social distancing.

April 22 marks Earth Day. It began 50 years ago as a way to raise awareness of the effects of air pollution.

Now, as more people stay safe at home, we are seeing the residual effects in our air, water, and wildlife.

"One of the most obvious things we have seen is a decrease in air pollution, and air quality has gotten much better," says Dr. Rene Price, a professor in FIU's Earth and Environment Department.

She says we see the effects here in South Florida with less traffic congestion, as well as around the globe.

Researchers from IQAir, for example, say data shows some major cities that suffer from the world's worst air pollution have seen reductions by up to 60% from last year.

"Reduction of cars, and that type of travel, reduces particulates in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide emissions, and ozone also," she explains.

"There is a silver lining," says Ron Magill with Zoo Miami. "The fact is, on this Earth Day, our air is cleaner. The beaches are cleaner. You can see cityscapes now."

"We are certainly seeing animals becoming more adventurous," he continues, "Going into areas that would normally be full of vehicles and noise and human activity and those sorts of things. We see with the absence of those, the addition of wildlife," he explains.

"We've seen more wildlife in the ocean and closer to waterways, everything from dolphins, to manta rays, to bird life."

As we eventually return to normalcy, these experts hope we can continue some of the new habits to help reduce the carbon footprint, like our telecommunication.

"I've been communicating with scientists all over the world during this," says Dr. Price. "So learning we can still communicate with people. We can do it over the internet, and we don't need to travel so much."

"There is beautiful nature all around us, if we give it the chance it can recover and recuperate," Magill says. "The earth is now breathing better."

Some healthy and eco-friendly habits we can maintain include biking or walking, planting a garden at home, and, to conserve water on this Earth Day, remember to turn the faucet off when scrubbing hands with soap for the recommended 20 seconds.

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