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Despite everything, now is the perfect time to be concentrating on the environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has inflamed the world with a belligerent momentum, asserting itself as another of the 21st century’s worst crises. Its attack on modern life has unveiled a disharmonious global society as communities swat away at an uncontrollable virus.

Meanwhile, the general effect of the disease is continuous in its chaos. Apart from the awfully graphic terrors that come with mass illness – such as overrun hospitals, empty streets and make-shift morgues – the coronavirus has taken a toll on the world’s financial stability. According to The New York Times, in the U.S. alone, 3.3 million people filed for unemployment earlier this March as a once-growing economy came crashing down. With some states preparing to further prolong social distancing rulings, many more can expect to lose their jobs.

Therefore, it may seem ludicrous to discuss environmental issues during such a pandemic. In the capitol, before President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill two weeks ago, Democrats attempted to emphasize environmental provisions such as requiring “airline carriers receiving federal assistance to cut their carbon emissions by 25% by 2035,” according to Roll Call.  

“This sideshow should not be part of the minority leader’s priorities,” said Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. Yet, however improper the timing may seem, there’s a rationality to the Democrat effort. It’s worth discussing such legislation.      

Recessions are heartless; they permanently scar individuals, families and societies. Nevertheless, with one already happening, there’s opportunity for societal restructuring – a necessity if a carbon-reduced future is to ever be met.  

In the past few years, one of the main issues with the Green New Deal – the progressive proposal of how to transform the U.S. into a carbon-neutral nation – was how to limit job loss when transitioning to clean energy. Now, with oil prices dropping, lay-offs are set to increase for those working in energy sectors, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, constructing renewable energy infrastructure could provide employment and incentives for investment – much needed to upstart an economy.  

This isn’t far-out logic:  as stated in The Hill, “with minor exceptions, the skills and industrial base needed for building and maintaining oil and gas pipelines are the same as those that would be needed to build and maintain pipelines for moving and sequestering CO2.” With the economic downturn, the Green New Deal could save jobs and forestall an expensive climatic crisis.   

Moreover, tackling environmental struggles now isn’t as irrelevant as it may seem. Recently, a body of research has found that the coronavirus is the “tip of the iceberg” for pandemics. Investigated by the Guardian, scientists point out how humanity’s increasing infiltration and destruction of natural ecosystems – deforestation and rapid urban growth being examples – has forced wildlife and humans into closer coexistence. With this comes a higher potential for disease to spread.  

In addition, as discussed by the World Health Organization, a hotter climate would result in an increase of virus-carrying insects and how far they may range. Such research should establish the world’s need to readdress its relationship with nature. Otherwise, many more epidemics may follow.

Some right-wing critics have pointed to the COVID-19 crisis as demonstrative of the world under the Green New Deal. Yet, without environmental legislation of some sort, today’s emergency may be the beginning of a cycle of catastrophes, whether related to health or the climate.

Returning to the status-quo is a chance squandered.      

Filip De Mott is a sophomore journalism and international affairs major. Contact Filip at demottfs@dukes.jmu.edu.