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The highway leading to Barcelona is empty of cars amid the coronavirus pandemic. The highway leading to Barcelona is empty of cars amid the coronavirus pandemic, March 15, 2020 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

Why COVID-19 Complicates the Work of Environmentalists and Green Parties

Thursday, June 11, 2020

In the months since the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down large parts of the world, the changes to the environment have become one of the most visible backdrops to life under lockdown. Suddenly blue skies have provided a welcome setting for more varieties of birds, whose songs can now be heard without the roar of airplanes and car traffic. From Istanbul to New Delhi, vistas reappeared that no one alive remembered seeing. Animals started exploring what had once been their usual habitats, with flamingoes venturing in Mumbai, deer clambering through East London, and all manner of animals strolling into cities where no one had ever seen them outside of a zoo.

But beyond the cleaner air and pastoral scenes drifting into normally bustling urban landscapes, a new and complicated political reality has emerged for environmental groups and green parties, which now face a world with upended priorities. As countries emerge from the shutdowns that aimed to slow the contagion, plans to revive economies at all costs have soared to the top of the political agenda in country after country. In many cases, accepting economic sacrifices for the sake of the environment looks less appealing and less politically viable than it was before the coronavirus seized the planet. ...

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