Don’t Touch Your Face

Don’t Touch Your Face: Sorry, Nature Isn’t Returning

A herd of goats take advantage of quiet streets near Trinity Square, in Llandudno, north Wales, on March 31.
A herd of goats take advantage of quiet streets near Trinity Square, in Llandudno, north Wales, on March 31.
A herd of goats take advantage of quiet streets near Trinity Square, in Llandudno, north Wales, on March 31. Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

On this week’s episode: Why the environmental benefits of the lockdown are fleeting at best.

As countries around the world have gone into lockdown, the air in some of the world’s most polluted cities has cleared. Global greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to drop by 8 percent this year, a drop six times larger than the previous record set in 2009. This and footage of animals roaming the streets in some cities while humans are confined indoors have sparked the online meme that nature is returning to its natural state. 

But will the environmental benefits of the lockdown lead to any long-term improvements? What do the coronavirus-related shutdowns tell us about what needs to be done in the fight against climate change? And are some countries taking advantage of the lockdowns to push ahead with polluting projects?

On this week’s podcast, Don’t Touch Your Face hosts James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon are joined by Jaybee Garganera, an environmental activist in the Philippines who serves as the national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, a network of advocacy groups that campaigns against destructive mining in the country. They are also joined by Gernot Wagner, a climate economist and clinical associate professor at New York University’s environmental studies department and associated clinical professor at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Further Reading

Venezuela risks fueling pandemic by allowing Amazon mining, activists say,” Reuters

Colombian death squads exploiting coronavirus lockdown to kill activists,” Guardian

Coronavirus is driving down global carbon dioxide emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago, agency says,” Washington Post

Five ways that Trump is undermining environmental protections under the cover of coronavirus,” Nature 

About Don’t Touch Your Face:  On the last day of 2019, China reported an unusual outbreak in Wuhan, a port city with a population of 11 million. Within two months, the disease would spread to almost every continent on the globe and kill thousands of people. From Foreign Policy, a podcast about the extent of the COVID-19 contagion, the threat it poses, and what countries are doing to contain it. Join FP’s James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon as they track the spread of the virus and explore what it means for people’s everyday lives. Have a coronavirus question for us to explore? Email it to  See All Episodes

More Don’t Touch Your Face episodes:

Don’t Touch Your Face: What the AIDS Epidemic Tells Us About COVID-19

On our final episode (for now), we examine an older public health crisis and the lessons it offers.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Dating During Covid-19

On this week’s episode: How the pandemic is changing the way we meet people.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Pandemic Within a Pandemic

On this week’s episode: How the world may see more protests as lockdowns lift.

Other Foreign Policy podcasts:

I Spy
I Spy

I Spy

Spies don’t talk—it’s the cardinal rule of the business. But here at Foreign Policy, we get them to open up. On I Spy, we hear from the operations people: the spies who steal secrets, who kill adversaries, who turn agents into double agents. Each episode features one spy telling the story of one operation. Want swag? Check out I Spy's merch by clicking here.



First Person

Each week, one guest whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world.

Loading graphics