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COVID19: What We Can Learn from These Strange Times

March 22, 2020

While COVID-19 has changed life as we know it, the story isn’t all doom and gloom. Indeed, there has been an outcry of kindness and support from the public. As we’ve seen before, in times of crisis, people tend to come together in unification and solidarity, and the same rings true for the current pandemic the world is now facing. 

There’s also a lot to learn from the COVID-19 outbreak, including the role social media plays in connecting us during times of hardship as well as the environmental impact of the pandemic. 

Today, we’re exploring COVID-19 in detail to understand exactly what we can take away from this unprecedented crisis. 

Social Isolation and Social Media: A Paradox

Social media has, once again, influenced the conversation surrounding COVID-19. And, maybe for the better. An initiative taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) saw social media being used to promote ‘The Safe Hands Challenge.’ 

Taken up by celebrities and the public alike, the challenge has gone viral and could be said to play a positive role in spreading awareness. By creating engaging content that is both educational and shareable, WHO’s action speaks to the times we now live in and the globalized conversation that we’re all a part of. 

As Forbes explains, “The Safe Hands Challenge, for instance, has been used as a TikTok hashtag nearly a half billion times in 48 hours. The WHO posted its first video to TikTok 16 days ago and has since added nine more. They’ve been viewed an average of 10.3 million times. For perspective, Loren Gray, the influencer with the largest following on the platform, has averaged only 4.4 million views in her last 10.”  

Interestingly, many individuals and now entire cities are being asked to stay at home through a process of self-isolation. And yet, thanks to social media, we’re more connected than ever which seems to have helped in allowing people to come together. 

Kind Efforts, Big and Small

On a positive note, COVID-19 has seen an outpour of kind efforts and actions. Many people have offered to help vulnerable groups such as the elderly in tending to their everyday needs, such as grocery shopping.

These kind efforts are being enacted on a small and large scale. For example, many leading supermarket chains recently announced special opening hours for the elderly. 

As the ABC explains, “Both shops are opening exclusively between 7:00am and 8:00am to give those groups a chance to do their shopping before the rush begins.”

“Woolworths says shoppers will be allowed in if they can show a relevant government-issued seniors, pensioner or disability card. Coles is also hiring more than 5,000 casual staff to help deal with demand.” 

“The moves come after scenes of panic-buying, clashes between shoppers and scuffles over toilet paper, as Australians look to stock up on products as a result of the fear of shortages, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.” 

Could There Be A Positive Environmental Impact?

environmental impact roads

With the world effectively being put on hold, cities on lockdown, air travel significantly reduced and thousands in self-isolation, the environment may be the only beneficiary from COVID-19.   

As The Guardian explains, “In China...the actions taken by authorities have inadvertently demonstrated that hefty 25% carbon dioxide cuts can bring less traffic and cleaner air with only a small reduction in economic growth…”

With COVID-19 forcing individual and systemic changes to be enacted immediately, the impact these changes are having on the environment is worthy of consideration. From the Geneva Motor Show to CeraWeek and the Formula One grand prix, thousands of travelers have cancelled their plans, saving tones of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 

Looking to The Future

A crisis as global and far-reaching as COVID-19 will be one to consider, reflect on and learn from for years to come. However, with the present knowledge that we have of the virus, and our current understanding of its general impact on the world, there are takeaways. 

As The Guardian effectively concludes, “If this trend continues, analysts say it is possible this will lead to the first fall in global emissions since the 2008-09 financial crisis. Even a slowdown in CO2 could buy time for climate action and, more importantly, inspire long-term behavioral changes – particularly in travel.” 

Will COVID-19 change the way we behave as a collective humanity, altering mainstream behaviors in areas such as travel and health care, or will we return to what we know best?

As this remains an ever-evolving and ever-changing story, the answer is yet to be determined. However, it’s sure to be a question we return to. 

By: Sophia Llewellyn

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