March 23, 2020 Anna Yung

COVID-19’s Unintended Silver Lining

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Anna Yung is Verdical Group’s Marketing & Events Intern. She holds a BA in Economics and a Minor in Urban & Environmental Policy from Occidental College.

When news that the coronavirus had landed in the US broke, I never imagined things would get this serious. I had been following reports of what was going on in China and Italy, but I think that, like a lot of people during the onset of this crisis, I failed to understand the severity. The coronavirus has left the world at a loss of how to proceed with normal life as it impacts families, small businesses, and local economies.

During times of crisis, we look around and struggle with how to move forward amidst the chaos. I think at a time like this we all look for ways to cope while trying to care for loved ones and the communities that have shaped us into who we are. For me personally, this time of uncertainty paired with my interest in the economy and the environment has forced me to reorient the way I look at interrelated and systemic social issues on a grand scale.

Income inequality, our broken healthcare system, and environmental degradation are those which have weighed heavily on me recently. I have sought to understand how we will pick up the pieces of all that will be lost during this time, but perhaps most importantly I am figuring out how to find the light at the end of this dark and seemingly endless tunnel. For now, the one thing that has brought me some sort of solace in knowing that the planet might be a beneficiary of all that’s going on.

The other day I read an article on social distancing by the New York Times which found that transportation, and therefore carbon emissions, are seeing huge reductions because people are staying home and choosing to avoid flying and driving. A friend shared NASA satellite images showing dramatic declines in pollution levels over China from the virus. This crisis has given the world a reason to slow down, to give the planet a break from the constant motion and pressure we put onto it. The way we have been seeing the human population react to COVID-19 is the kind of reaction I’ve been desperate to see people have to climate change. In a very strange way, the current crisis has made me hopeful and shown me that in a dire situation that poses a huge existential threat, our world has the capacity to act. I think what is most important to consider moving forward, is that once the coronavirus threat has passed, we have to prioritize longer-term changes and call for leaders to show up, not just on our own behalves, but for the planet too.

In a strange way, being quarantined has presented all of us with the opportunity to learn that there is more we can do. We need leaders with purpose and drive who call on all of us to be bold, innovative, strong, purposeful, and collaborative. With the well being of our planet and people as a top priority, we can change the way our world looks for every generation that follows. A tweet from Jerry Lorenzo Manuel that I saw this morning sums it up in the most perfect of ways: “The biggest loss in the end is if we come out on the other side of this unchanged.”