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The outbreak of COVID19 is sweeping across the world. Many of us feel like we are in a constant state of both overreacting and underreacting at the same time, while we wait for things to calm down. But many are already discussing the impact that this will have on the environment, and how isolated communities will be able to cope.

This year’s COP26 climate talks, which are touted the most important talks after the Paris Agreement, could be canceled because of travel restrictions. The UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany, has canceled all physical meetings through the end of April and is weighing what to do about a series of regional climate negotiations. This has led many to questions the long-term impacts of the crisis on the natural environment.

Since the outbreak, factories in major affected areas, including China, were shut down. According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the average number of “good quality air days” rose by 21.5% in February compared to the same period in 2019. Satellite images from the European Space Agency and NASA depict a dramatic fall in nitrogen dioxide emissions, especially those released by power plants, industries, and vehicles. This means there will be a dramatic fall in greenhouse gas emissions this year, but at what cost?

Island communities have seen the value of remote working and digital connections long before this pandemic, as ways of bringing in new job and education opportunities and reducing outward migration. Last year we featured the island of Arranmore, which has Ireland’s fastest internet and used it as a tool to bring in new families to move in. Now we are seeing many communities forced to shut themselves off to the outside world, from Scotland to the Australian outback, but still being able to stay connected with the power of the internet.

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