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There’s no question that the recent spread of coronavirus has changed the world as we know it for the rest of our lives. As of this writing, there’s still no way to know the full devastation, destruction and death toll that will ultimately result from this pandemic, but the impact will certainly be long term. So, as humans are ought to do in times of peril, we must look towards any semblance of a silver lining this crisis presents. Once the virus is contained and we can collectively move on, policies that have embraced both progressive and libertarian solutions to the pandemic could potentially become permanent, in addition to any positive impacts on the environment that have resulted from curbing our economic activity. When this ends, hopefully politics (and the planet!) can change for the better in the decades to come.

When coronavirus first emerged, President Donald Trump’s administration downplayed its possible impact until the effects were felt on their precious economy. All of sudden, policies that were always deemed as “too progressive” such as checks for all Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, free healthcare coverage for victims and other “socialist” ideas became normal solutions. Obviously, there’s still much work to be done as the old Congressional guard filled the latest stimulus package with favors for their corporate donors, but overall, the amount of progressive solutions being implemented right now means that any claims of “but how will we pay for it?” have rightfully gone out the window. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently pointed out, it was never an issue of whether or not the government could afford it, but rather, the political will for our leaders to do it.

Similarly, credible libertarian solutions are also being proposed, specifically pertaining to arbitrary regulations that apply to the healthcare industry and medical equipment supply chains. Such regulations are usually a result of some big corporation trying to control a certain product or service, but now the government needs to make more medical equipment readily available so hospitals can meet their growing demands. In Italy there was a case where a piece of a ventilator pump was able to be reproduced with a 3-D printer for $1, while the company that owns the patent usually charges $11,000 for the same piece. Naturally, the company threatened to sue the 3-D printers, despite the lives that were saved. Here in Ohio, the FDA momentarily delayed Battelle’s recent technology to safely sterilize medical masks, which was also temporarily perplexing. After all, while free-market capitalism should mean more competition and more affordable products, our current “crony capitalism” system typically benefits the wealthy and well-connected. From here on, medical ingenuity and innovation shouldn’t be limited by such unnecessary regulations.

Meanwhile, in countries where lockdowns have been needed to contain the virus and travel is more limited, there have been positive impacts on the environment. In Italy, where the virus has hit hard, “stay at home” policies and curbing tourist activities have led to the environment recovering in a variety of ways, including clearer water and less pollution in the air. While some misleading reports showed that dolphins were coming back to ports where cruise ships once docked, it’s generally accepted that suppressing the country’s economic activity has saved lives and the environment. Similarly in China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated and lockdown policies were more severe, the reduction of air pollution from factories and vehicles has been credited for saving tens of thousands of lives, mainly relating to a “particulate matter considered the primary cause of death from air pollution.” Yes, once the science is all said and done, it turns out that (surprise!) maintaining our current amount of economic activity and pollution is unsustainable for the environment. However, curbing those effects, even due to a deadly virus, can have a positive impact in the long term.

In the midst of this crisis, the obvious question is whether or not any of these positive aspects will last after the pandemic has run its course. After all, I remember how the inspiring American spirit that followed 9/11 quickly dissipated into global wars and deep political divisions, most of which we still live with today. Hopefully, depending on how long this lasts (possibly 12-18 months, according to experts) and the severity of its impact, it’s possible that the positive progressive and libertarian policies being suggested in such a perilous time can stay in place when things get back to normal. Likewise, maybe it’s time to keep in mind how our economic activity impacts our environment and how those changes should be permanent as well. One can certainly hope. Eventually it’ll be up to the survivors of this epidemic to remember these lessons and implement them so we don’t repeat such an unfortunate time in history again.

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