We’ve likely all heard the cliche, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Triteness aside, like most hackneyed phrases, it bears some truth.
Sometimes it takes a little effort to put a positive spin on unfortunate events, but if we think about it, we really can identify positive outcomes from anything.
As the nation finds itself in the grips of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it perhaps seems impossible to imagine what conceivable good can come from it, especially since the White House dropped the proverbial ball, leaving us woefully unprepared to handle what in normal circumstances could be calmly assuaged with policy, communication, and funding.
Without minimizing the virus’s severity and how seriously we must take it, the quarantines and people working from home or simply not reporting to work are having a marked impact on the environment.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency’s pollution monitoring satellites have recorded over China significant reductions in nitrogen dioxide, a gaseous pollutant resulting from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas, and diesel.
“There is evidence that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.”
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center air quality researcher Fei Liu added:
“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event.”
But Chinese skies are not the only ones getting cleaner.
According to the European Union Earth Observation Programme (@CopernicusEU), nitrogen dioxide levels over northern Italy have declined following the country’s lockdown to limit the coronavirus spread.
Claus Zehner, the agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite mission manager, said:
“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities.”
These results indicate how immediate reductions in fossil fuel emissions will improve the environment at a moment the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported the highest average global temperatures in the 141 years data has been kept.
We must confront this historic coronavirus pandemic seriously and strategically.
Amid the illness, chaos, and confusion also exists opportunity.
The United States has an embarrassing history of acting only when our collective backs are to the wall.
We didn’t act on slavery until civil war tore the country in two.
We didn’t act on the structural conditions that led to the Republican Great Depression in 1929 until rampant poverty, unemployment, and economic collapse led to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
We dithered on civil rights in the 1960s until the great Civil Rights icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and current Maryland Rep. John Lewis and others engaged in sit-ins, bus boycotts, and non-violent demonstrations that culminated in the “Bloody Sunday” march across Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, forcing President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act, then the Voting Rights Act.
The coronavirus is exposing more than ever why we need a Medicare-for-all-type single-payer healthcare system.
We may have it within the coming decade.
The virus is testing our resilience as a nation.
Society is shutting down as confirmed cases mount.
Schools are closing if they have not closed already.
Restaurants and bars are shuttering.
Large gatherings, like rallies, parades, and conferences are being canceled.
People are being urged to stay home, which is going to further test an already ailing economy.
Over the next few weeks and months, the COVID-19 virus is going to show us what we’re capable of.
Are we ready?
Image credit: globalvoices.org