With the world on pause, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negatives, from horrifying daily media coverage to a stand-still economy to the news that hospitals are understocked, cases are going unreported, and national events are being canceled. It seems to be the end of the world as we know it. While it is important to stay informed by the news and be aware of how we can help, the majority of us can only have so much influence on the state of the planet. Every effort can make a difference, but trying to take on the weight of the world is incredibly overwhelming and simply impossible. It’s important to remember that alongside the darkness of these trying times, there is light, and it’s okay to acknowledge the positives. Believe it or not, a planet of people confined to their homes has actually yielded some beautiful consequences.
The Ozone Layer is Healing
As the last few months have demonstrated, global action can make a difference. With millions isolated in their homes, there have been incredibly positive effects on the state of our ozone layer. The ozone layer, which acts as a protective layer against sun radiation and is necessary for life on Earth, has been penetrated from greenhouse gas emissions that come from things like factories and cars. With significant reductions in pollution over the last several months, air quality has improved, and the man-made holes in the ozone layer have had the chance to begin to heal. This is so significant because it proves that with a collective initiative, it is still possible to reverse the effects of climate change. Antara Banerjee, a lead author of studies on the development of the ozone layer, explains: “It shows that…we can reverse the damage that we’ve already done to our planet. That’s a lesson for us all…If we keep adhering to this protocol then the ozone hole is projected to recover – at different times, in different parts of the atmosphere.” However, these positive strides could be immediately reversed if we return to pre-quarantine activities like using gasoline and diesel for transportation, which accounts for 29% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, and burning fossil fuels in factories, which accounts for 22% of emissions. Hopefully, the world uses this time to see what beautiful outcomes are possible from actions that reduce our carbon footprint. Together, we can work to reduce carbon emissions at every level in society, from switching to electric cars and public transportation to encouraging large corporations to invest in alternative energy and work towards carbon neutrality. Continued action is the only way we can build upon these small progressions made during quarantine.
A New Sense of Community
Physical barriers have been unable to hinder a global sense of community; in fact, they have strengthened it. Groups of people around the world have discovered incredibly creative ways to maintain a greater sense of compassion and humanity while staying physically distant.
For example, residents of New York City have been spending two minutes every evening at 7 PM standing out on their balconies clapping and cheering for the first responders who are coming home from risking their lives every day for the health of their neighbors. This beautiful expression of gratitude helps healthcare workers feel more seen and appreciated. A project called the Rainbow Connection which began in Brooklyn but quickly spread around the world through social media encourages families to draw a rainbow and place it in their windows to brighten up the neighborhood.
Similarly, all around the world, citizens are taking to their terraces to offer their talents to their communities. Italians and Spaniards take to their balconies to sing or play guitar in the evenings. Some people project movies onto the sides of buildings for the residents to enjoy. Israelis cheer from their rooftops to celebrate a couple’s wedding on the street below, Dutch gather in the streets in front of a nursing home to sing to the elderly, residents of Boston collectively lean out of their windows singing “Lean on Me” in solidarity (and to honor its lyricist Bill Withers, who died of COVID19 complications), and residents of Copenhagen lead community balcony workouts. No matter where you are in the world, a strong sense of compassion and empathy is bringing communities together everywhere.
With everyone confined to their homes, life can get lonely…and what better way to solve the problem than with a foster pet. Animals can serve as a source of comfort and have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Connie Wang, a California resident and new pet owner, explains how her dog’s “extra heartbeat in the house was like medicine.” As a result, pet adoptions have skyrocketed, especially in places like New York City that have been the hardest hit. Shelters, which would have had to have closed anyway due to national business shut-downs, are being emptied of their furry residents. In this win-win situation, not only do people in distress get a faithful companion, but the animals finally find a safe home and people to care for them. However, there have been some concerns that after this quarantine period passes, there will be a flood of returns as families cannot continue to financially support a pet in the home. Even if this outcome does occur, at least families are able to enjoy their furry companions’ presence for now.
There is so much we are able to take away from these months of isolation, primarily the beautiful sense of solidarity and interest in the greater good that is being highlighted around the globe. With positive intention and productive action, we can transform the world we live in. If there’s one thing to be learned from this experience, it is that good can always triumph. Even with thousands dying every day and a cloud of uncertainty fogging our vision, humanity has been able to create beauty and compassion in its midst. Just like after any tragedy, the world will never be the same in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic; if we continue our efforts to improve society, it will be better.
Molly May is a junior in high school on Long Island, New York. Through the current presidential election process, she has discovered a passion for politics that has been channeled into local activism and informative writing. She hopes to expand on her interests by working with local campaigns and spreading education