No one could have predicted that in the year 2020, everyone’s world was about to flip upside down. It’s been just over 100 years since the US has seen its last pandemic, the H1N1 Virus, or more commonly known as Influenza. The spread of coronavirus has turned an ever-bustling world into an abandoned ghost town of shut-down businesses, empty streets, and social distancing. But is it really that bad?
According to an article by BBC journalist, Martha Henriques, “Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.” While it’s true that the coronavirus has put a halt on global commerce, there’s a silver lining that many fail to see out of anxiety for their economic status. Because so many people and travel corporations are participating in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, not nearly as many people are driving or flying, accordingly mother earth gets a break from the copious amounts of poison we emit into her atmosphere. According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, since the birth of the global pandemic, emissions fell 25% at the start of the year as people were instructed to stay at home. Coal use fell by 40% in China’s six largest power plants since the last quarter of 2019. Air quality was also up in China by 11.4% compared with the same time last year in 337 cities across China.
Yes, it’s true that environmental issues have dampened in parallel to our decreased use of fossil fuels and other combustibles, but we may again begin to see an increase in waste production. With the worlds high increase in the use of face masks and hand sanitizer bottles, people now dispose of so many masks and empty bottles on the daily that they can be found littered almost everywhere across the globe.
While it is true that the coronavirus has been tragic and is responsible for the deaths of many loved and innocent people. But their undeserved deaths do not have to be in vain. We could use this unexpected tragedy as a basis to start utilizing the dialogic (contemporary) model of environmental communication. The deficit (classical) model that has been utilized in most environmental movements has proven to have some success but also inspires division amongst people who reject the idea that we need immediate environmental change or the consequences could be apocalyptic. The dialogic model accepts the plurality of truths and allows us to better understand the environmental issues at hand. It also embraces the power of dialogue and communicating with open minds. In a time as polarized politically as this, I truly feel that open-dialogue and conversation is the key to beginning our next attempt at environmental efforts after the current administration is disbanded in the US.
No one can say for sure what will happen in the coming years. All we can do is hope that something this horrible doesn’t happen again or we will at least be more prepared for it. We can also choose to see this pandemic as a gap in economic production or we can choose to see it as a wake-up call, not only for better preparedness, but as a catalyst for true environmental change.
When discussing the who what and how of this pandemic it is challenging to address any one group or type of person. It’s a given that financial status could offer you better protection from this pandemic but the virus doesn’t care about your money or social class, it affects everyone. Some more then others are more susceptible to negative health effects arising upon contracting the virus but we should use this pandemic as an opportunity to embrace the idea that we are all a collective and in order to create any true environmental change we need to work together despite our race, class, and other characteristics.