On March 12 in the evening hour of 8 o’clock, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District fired the call heard ‘round the world, igniting shouts of happiness from students of Palos Verdes High School. We now had the ultimate freedom–school was canceled. Naturally, I spent the passing days with my friends until that, too, was canceled. As of March 19th, I’ve been complying with California’s mandatory stay-at-home restriction to combat the coronavirus.
Reflecting on my month isolated from society, I can safely report that I have never felt better, and my room is the cleanest it’s ever been! For high schoolers, the months of February and March are notorious for few breaks, which results in many late nights of stress-induced AP cramming, and very little sleep. The coronavirus has hit pause on the fast-paced American lifestyle, allowing those who were bogged down by school to get more than 6 hours of sleep; students can now explore different interests or hobbies, and even follow independent, creative passions for which they never had time beforehand. As students learn from home, they get a glimpse of the independent college learning lifestyle, and with the help of one-hour Zoom calls–the new framework for learning–students can socialize and learn comfortably, even if they prefer to do it in bed with snacks, still wearing their pajamas.
It’s understandable to have a fixed mindset that the coronavirus has brought only chaos to society. However, the long term effects of quarantine may be a gift for humanity. Families now have the opportunity to learn to communicate effectively to resolve conflicts and work out differences, and thus form deeper bonds with family members, or rebuild relationships. Some countries have stepped up to cooperate and confer with each other to try to address the pandemic, promoting vital unity. And some leaders’ capabilities and biases have been exposed throughout layers of government both domestically and internationally.
Environmental activism is stronger than ever, as the worldwide lockdown has revealed tremendous environmental benefits. As more individuals worked from home, the demand for oil decreased, leading to a decrease in the extraction of natural resources that increase air and water pollution and promote Earth’s destruction. According to the World Health Organization, “air pollution [is] responsible for about 7 million deaths globally per year…” meaning this decrease in human activity outside the home, although a temporary solution for a decrease in emitted air pollutants, may save individuals from premature death. This brief period has allowed and is allowing Earth to rebalance from years of negative human impact, and may be just what humanity needs to create and solidify change to decrease the speed of global warming. According to the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite, the atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide over Los Angeles were lower in the first two weeks of March compared to last March. However, once the majority of people go back to work, increasing traffic and the need for oil, and the economy goes back into the double-digits, these beneficial short-term effects of the coronavirus will dissolve. This eye-opener to the main cause of global warming– humans– can benefit society if we treat climate change like we are treating the pandemic. That is, by proactively accounting and planning for all unknowns and actively working to prevent damage and loss, we can decrease the rate of or even reverse global warming.
Many families have been quick to practice better hygiene by washing their hands, and most, like mine, have made a project out of sanitizing each piece of food from the grocery store. According to WebMD, the coronavirus can live on plastic for 2-3 days, but only up to 24 hours on cardboard. This information, if widely disseminated and promoted, may compel lovers of plastic to switch to a more sustainable approach; even if these individuals pay no mind to the damage plastic inflicts on our Earth, they may choose the sustainable cardboard alternative to decrease the risk of catching coronavirus.
As our once-busy lives come to a halt, I suggest humanity embrace the calm in the chaos, and take such steps as practicing self-care to finally beginning the crazy projects one dreamed about, to fulfilling one’s inner child’s yearnings for unscheduled leisure, desires the daily grind of life often prevented one from embracing. Remember, this will make a great story for your children and grandchildren, for years to come.