The tragedy of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 continues, but the implementation of the vaccinations offers hope for an end to the often deadly infection. Thankfully most people have chosen to care for one another and have modified their lifestyles by following health and safety guidelines; this still needs to continue for a while. Some of the lifestyle adaptations to the pandemic have taught us ways to function for the greater good: more family time, making do with what we have (less consumption), more home cooking, less travel, more nature time, and more attention to limit the spread of infection. Can we build on the positive changes that are more compassionate to the earth and one another?
Last summer (2020), many countries and communities began to think about building back an economy based on more sustainable, healthier production and consumption processes. Areas of the world recognized the benefits of a cleaner atmosphere from the forced societal slowdowns, where the carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution declined. Unfortunately, the gradual and partial return to norms has mostly resumed unsustainable, polluting ways. A study of pandemic stimulus spending in the E.U., U.S., China, and India was conducted by the New York-based research firm Rhodium Group. Expenditures for an improved, sustainable, green economy made up about 15% of the investment by the European Union, but 1% or less in the other major economies. “In absolute terms, the E.U. and its member states have together committed $238 billion to green measures, compared to $40 billion for the U.S., $1.4 billion for China, and $900 million for India.” They explain that the U.S. was more concerned about limiting emergency spending.
How important is it to invest in healthier earth for our youth and future generations? What lessons of the past year can be implemented to address the threats of climate change, overconsumption of resources, and massive waste/contamination/sickness? Wearing masks, social distancing, and online communications will be essential for reducing the spread of future infectious diseases. Online communications also save time, fuel, and vehicular wear and tear. More sustainable ways may include home entertainment, more time to appreciate/protect nature, minimizing purchases/possessions, subsidizing those in need, supporting businesses that function sustainably, expanding the list of home recipes, and overall valuing simplicity. What can you add to this list? We all have a part in turning the tide of harm to nature. St. Teresa of Calcutta reminded us, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” J Peter Nixon, who contributes to U.S. Catholics, suggests, “Nobody likes disruption. But sometimes it’s the only way organizations and individuals change and grows.” RIP to all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Maybe one way to honor them and others who have suffered from this pandemic is with positive change.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.