The COVID-19 Pandemic will ultimately help us grow as a society

by Diego Perdomo

TAKING A BREATHER: Self quarantine measures and policies have led to significant decreases in NO2, a gas emitted from power plants and vehicles, over east Asia. According to a study done by Berkeley Earth in 2015, the air pollution in China results in 1.5 million deaths a year from heart and lung complications. Courtesy of NASA and the European Space Agency

   Human society is at a very significant turning point that may define the quality of life for future generations. With over four million confirmed cases and 315 thousand deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the source of widespread calamity, drastically changing and suppressing facets of normal life, like college education, visiting others and going out in public. However, in spite of the tragic consequences of disease, the pandemic has given the world and ecosystems an opportunity to recover and flourish with less human intervention.

   COVID-19, an illness originating from the SARS-CoV-2 strain, is a viral infection that may cause pneumonia, fevers, and kidney failure. The virus was first identified last December by doctors in Wuhan, China; however more cases were later confirmed throughout Asia, Europe and North America throughout January and February. In an attempt to prevent further spread, most countries have enacted social distancing policies and limitations to public infrastructure and group interaction.

   On a surface level, the effect of many social distancing policies appears to be negative as 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, most public services regarding education and recreation have been severely limited and life becoming predominantly consumerist as the general population is encouraged to leave for the sole purposes of picking up groceries and receiving medical treatment and testing.

   However, the abundance of freetime has had a profound effect on student and worker culture as social interaction is now predominantly facilitated through video conferencing websites like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classrooms. Although the change has been abrupt to some, it is not very unlikely to see a future trend where online office work would prevail over rented office spaces and online school being incorporated during times where natural causes inhibit in-person education. The potential death of office work culture might also bring benefits like less use of paper and potential revisions to zoning to allocate more space for nature and parks. With flexible online work, students and employees are more able to dedicate more time to family and personal aspirations, resulting in less commute and a new generation of more driven, productive workers..

   As modern life begins to become increasingly digitally-oriented, wasteful byproducts from daily commutes could also begin to decrease. Heavily congested areas like New York City have observed a steep drop in carbon dioxide emissions and pollution as a result of less commerce. The worst effect of the continuation of this trend would likely be to the detriment of many businesses that rely on daily transportation, but the best effect could result in potential plans for more efficient and environmentally friendly transportation and the elimination of many large spanning parking lots.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR: The change of air quality in the New Delhi skyline from Nov. 1, 2019 to April 20, 2020. The World Health Organization once declared India’s capital as the most polluted city in May of 2014 as a result of its high population and reliance on diesel. Courtesy of the Associated Press

   One promising effect of self-quarantine appeared to be the improvement of natural ecosystems with exciting news like the appearance of dolphins and swans in Venetian Canals. However, like the 5G conspiracy, which posited that 5G cell phone towers were responsible for COVID-19, this information is false and may contribute to harmful assumptions on the state of the environment. Despite this misinformation, the diminished use of automobiles and fossil fuels have shown a noticeable decline in the airborne nitrogen dioxide levels over China, showing and inspiring more indepth research on the positive environmental benefits regarding the current state of worldwide affairs.

   Although fear and uncertainty may seem like the only appropriate reactions to the crisis we are facing, there is great potential for beneficial changes to infrastructure and the environment, as well as our appreciation for each other and the planet.

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