We all have a role to play
Every year on 22 April, people come together for Earth Day to celebrate the planet and environmental protection. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but the Corona Virus pandemic (COVID-19) outbreak made the celebrations look very different from usual.
The massive global response to COVID-19 leads us to the question: what can we take or learn from the pandemic to tackle the climate crisis and protect the environment?
Climate change and COVID-19 are two very different challenges, but they do have the same keys, things in common. Both are global - they do not have National boundaries - and both require countries to work together to find solutions.
As the impact of climate change intensifies over time, it is the children and young people of today who will face its worst effects. Young people have been telling us that they are afraid of climate change with the same urgency as people now feel about COVID-19. This is a time for children and young people to talk with parents and grandparents, to discuss the kind of world we want to create when the pandemic has passed.
The global community has shown that it can act to address a crisis, with governments, businesses and individuals taking measures and changing behaviours in response to the pandemic. When we work together, even small personal actions when put together, like physical distancing, can make a big difference, helping us to overcome huge challenges.
Many social determinants of health—including poverty, physical environment (eg, smoke exposure, homelessness), and race or ethnicity —can have a considerable effect on COVID-19 outcomes. Homeless families are at higher risk of viral transmission because of crowded living spaces and scarce access to COVID-19 screening and testing facilities
It is also poignant that physical distancing measures, which are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, are substantially more difficult for those with adverse social determinants and might contribute to both short-term and long-term morbidity. School closures increased food insecurity for children living in poverty who participate in school lunch (Midday meals) programmes. Malnutrition causes substantial risk to both the physical and mental health of these children, including lowering immune response, which has the potential to increase the risk of infectious disease transmission.
People or families who are homeless are at higher risk of infection during physical lockdowns especially if public spaces are closed, resulting in physical crowding that is thought to increase viral transmission and reduce access to care.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a global health crisis that has had a deep impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. Not only the rate of contagion and patterns of transmission threatens us, but the safety measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus also require social distancing by refraining from doing what is inherently human, which is to find solace in the company of others.