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What happened to our world? How did we get here? We were going to protests, concerts and making trips to Raising Canes with our friends just a few months ago. The reality that we knew is gone, and there is one big question that everyone is asking: What happens next? When COVID-19 is finally cured and we can resume our daily lives, we should expect some major changes to remain.
It should not come as a surprise that many cities have horrible pollution. USA Today ranked the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area at No. 6 for the worst air pollution in 2019. Now, LA has some of the cleanest air in the world after a few short months of quarantine. It would have been unthinkable for anyone to associate Los Angeles with clean air in such a short time, but today it is very real. The LA smog is being diluted by the day, leaving behind clear blue skies.
While Los Angeles citizens should eventually go back to work and enjoy the city as they once did, I also hope they take valuable lessons from this experience as it relates to environmental issues. Once everything returns to normal, pollution will most likely increase once again, but we have seen how quickly it can be healed. In light of this, LA residents and California politicians need to think about steps they can take to improve the air quality in one of the country’s biggest cities. Individually, we can be mindful of our energy conservation through simple acts like driving less or replacing our gas-powered lawn mowers. As a nation, we need to push for clean energy, such as wind and solar power, to be installed as the norm, or we may never see healthy skies in Los Angeles ever again. This would not only improve the environment, but also the lives of many Angelinos who have worsening health problems as a result of the typically poor air quality.
The outbreak has scared millions of people into being more concerned about hygiene and cleanliness, to the extent that people are going beyond regular household cleaning, and are disinfecting their shoes and cars. While these are extreme measures and it is not good to be influenced by fear, it has been a benefit to see cleanliness and public health considered so intently. According to AHC Health, keeping a clean home reduces allergy and asthma symptoms, relieves stress and improves safety. Moving forward, we all must continue to seriously monitor public health and cleanliness after COVID-19 has passed, to prevent pandemics like this from happening again.
Human beings are not designed to stay inside all the time. This quarantine has served as proof. Not only has this hardship revealed the value of community and the unhealthiness that comes with isolation, it has also brought people together. Americans have not experienced this collective cohesion on a national scale since 9/11. After the tragedy in 2001, American citizens supported each other through the devastation with kindness. Now, we are seeing a repeat of that unity. Despite our differences, people are actively reaching out to each other in acts of solidarity.
According to Politico, this pandemic is likely to incite a reform that will put unity on a whole new level. After 9/11, we reformed our international travel policies. After the AIDS crisis in the 80s, new organizations began to sprout up to battle the epidemic, such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. In all likelihood, with the outcry for minimum wage workers and their lack of healthcare benefits, we may be bound for an economic reform, born from our new appreciation of interdependency and community. Although we can never be sure how long this national consideration for others will last, there is a new sense of value for our fellow citizens that will keep us from forgetting how much we need each other. This is the true unity that will arise from this pandemic.
THE BOTTOM LINE
More than 30,000 people have died in the United States as a result of COVID-19. In a time where cities have shut down and tens of thousands of people have died, this is an experience that will be ingrained into everyone’s minds for the rest of our lives. This is the kind of event that will be taught to our children and grandchildren.
We have experienced change during this tumultuous time, but it is change for the better.
There is grieving to do for those who have died, but there will also be celebration in regaining the freedoms that we often took for granted before the quarantine. If we are to ensure that these changes to our environment and communities remain a permanent effect of this virus, we must actively pursue them. Vote for policies that enact environmental reform to keep our cities smog-free. Keep cleanliness as a necessary habit. Advocate for loving your neighbor, even in the difficult times. This virus has forced our world to change, but we have the power to make these changes permanent. Whether or not we make those adjustments is on us.