Like just about everyone else in the world, my daily routine has completely upended by the COVID-19 global pandemic. What started as a rapidly transmitted flu-like virus in a place I had never heard of – Wuhan, China – has become a worldwide source of fear, anxiety and for way too many, death. Because I largely work from home, my daily routine has not bee drastically upended. But my view of the world and my place in it has. I realize I am literally connected to people near and far, people I know and love,and people I will never meet in places I will never visit. What I do, how I think, what I feel is intricately connected to millions of others in ways I could not imagine two months ago.
What has been both interesting and troubling for me is how the world’s leaders have responded to the spread of this deadly virus. A few years ago countries began closing their borders to refugees seeking safety and opportunity. In the U.S. the President ordered the construction of a literal wall, and now thousands of adults and children find themselves confined in cages, while others wait in Mexico in the vain hope of a hearing of their case. In the same way with the virus, countries around the globe have closed their borders, both keeping their people in, but also keeping others out. It’s as if by shutting our borders we make the problem go away, when in fact all we do is drive the problem toward those least able to address it.
Global challenges require coordinated global solutions and that has not happened. America First, China First, Germany first, whatever country first is not addressing the problem globally. And when countries think only of themselves, everyone loses.
Which makes me think of climate change and the way in which we in the United States are again isolating ourselves off from the rest of the world, as if that will keep global warming, rising waters, destructive weather and the like from our shores. The violent and destructive weather of the past year has shown that to be a lie. Yet our administration continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industries, open natural lands to drilling and undermine regulations designed to move in an environmentally friendly direction.
Reports this week emerged that early in #45’s presidency a simulation of a global pandemic was run by White House advisors the simulation clearly predicted what we are now experiencing. Instead of listening and equipping that team, Trump fired them. Then, two months ago as the virus moved across Asia and Europe, the administration was making it sound like the U.S. would somehow be spared. When preparations could have been made, they were stalled, and now vital equipment, necessary tests, and available beds for the sick are in short supply and every state has been left to fend for themselves.
The Trump administration has shown itself to be incapable and inept in this time of crisis, and one can only hope this will bring a quick end to his presidency in November. But my concern is not primarily about the president. My concern is that regardless who leads us, we who are citizens of this supposed democracy must insist that our legislators at local, state and national levels begin making adjustments in policy, in spending and in legal and political priorities to address the continued warming and disruptions of climate change.
The Changes that are Needed
I have read articles asking how the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic will alter our lifestyles as Americans. When we see how quickly Wall Street plunged, businesses closed and people lost their livelihoods, we need to rethink how we structure a society where can have their basic human needs met and basic human rights secured. We need to structure a health care system that has both a preventive and diagnostic focus. We need to examine why some public schools could give their students I-pads to continue their schooling at home and while others left to scramble for program packs and free lunches. We need to look at our priorities as individuals and as a collective society, and how we live together. It has been reported that the lines into gun shops were as long as grocery lines or longer. That is a frightening image – that some would resort to violence and not reach out to neighbor and fellow citizen. Fortunately, it seems that more of the latter – reaching out – has occurred, and I would hope we could listen to the counsel of our better angels than our fears and distrust.
We will eventually get COVID-19 under control, but we can not go back to normal. For this is just a warning of the greater threat we face in climate change, and a reminder that the world as we know it, will and cannot wait for us to change our ways. It will force the changes, if we don’t choose to make them on our own.