In early March, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan. Citizens are harboring unease and fear about the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to flatten the curve, Whitmer enacted mandatory self-quarantine and social distancing for all people with nonessential jobs to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus. Since Gov. Whitmer’s order, Michigan has experienced 10,791 confirmed cases of the virus and 417 deaths as of April 2. While these numbers are substantial, it could have been much worse if the Michigan state government didn’t begin enacting these emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus.
For good reason, state and federal governments have assumed the responsibility of overseeing public health and safety as the dangers of the pandemic affect our country. Similar precautionary emergency measures are being taken in other states as well, attesting to just how dangerous the virus is and just how important our response to it is. From my position of privilege, I have thought about how effectively we could address our climate emergency if we took the same prompt and drastic action. One cannot deny that global climate change is a risk to all people just as a pandemic is a risk to all people. Therefore, one should trust that drastic measures could lift mankind out of the climate crisis just as these drastic measures are working to lift us out of the coronavirus crisis.
In upholding the law of the land, the United States Congress has recognized the severity of this pandemic. With limited internal gridlock, it has managed to pass legislation that addresses the drastic financial needs of this emergency. As a result, direct payments of $1,200 will initially be made to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 per year and overall unemployment benefits will grow substantially. It is commendable that our government is addressing the economic needs of the people who face massive upheaval as a result of unemployment. At the same time, I trust that if we all considered the climate emergency to be as urgent of an emergency as this pandemic, a provisional economic subsidy would, in fact, be feasible for our government and therefore not an insurmountable task.
Some people are reluctant to see the benefits of such emergency measures due to the compromises that they bring about for other circles of society, such as education, socialization and public security. Students everywhere are facing a sudden change in their academic landscape, with some institutions transitioning completely to online forms and some experiencing an abrupt pause altogether. As people continue to distance themselves from those they previously interacted with often, social media has become a necessary tool to socialize and maintain connection with others. In an effort to slow the spread of the virus nationwide and internationally, travel by way of any vehicle has been discouraged altogether until it becomes safer to gather in masses. While people are adapting and coping with these compromises, we still can’t ignore the fact that they are discomforting and inconvenient. For some, this is enough to argue that emergency measures should not be so restrictive or should not be taken, despite the obvious emergency.
While it has become uncomfortable to make these economic, social and educational changes, this doesn’t justify ignoring the danger of the pandemic. In his daily news conference, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo emphasized that he intends to prioritize saving lives over restarting the economy. Cuomo said, “If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest. No American is going to say, ‘accelerate the economy at the cost of human life.’ Because no American is going to say how much a life is worth.” None of us want to make these drastic adjustments to our lifestyles, but we are accepting that this is what we need to do for the greater good and for public health. Just as we accept that this is what needs to be done to persist through the pandemic, we should accept that we cannot ignore the emergency of climate change any longer and that we should react in the same way toward the climate crisis.
In analyzing the effectiveness of the legislation made to address the overwhelming needs of people during this pandemic, we have to understand that even with radical measures, we are only physically able to implement these measures incrementally. All of us are exposed to the anxiety caused by the emergency, and we are all undoubtedly experiencing a stark disruption to our lives because of it. However, even these changes that we perceive to be drastic are not in reality. Think about how drastic these measures would need to be to actually provide a solution and enough resources for all people to seamlessly adjust to the emergency. We are merely touching the surface of all that needs to be done to endure this pandemic. Thus, we should trust that such drastic measures are not the harbinger of a chaotic society, but instead, a preliminary gateway to the ultimate solution: public safety. After the months that we take to address and completely handle the emergency of the pandemic, we should devote ourselves to addressing the climate crisis with the same, if not more, severity.
Kianna Marquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.