At a time when over 175,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus pandemic, with over 800,000 deaths worldwide, most people just want their lives to go back to normal as soon as possible. But recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he views the pandemic as an opportunity that can be used to combat climate change. Rather than go back, he wants to push forward.

“We will not, we cannot, go back to the way things were,” said Director Ghebreyesus at a press conference from the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday. “Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different.”

“In particular, the pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change. The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be, cleaner skies and rivers.”

Director Ghebreyesus also gave remarks emphasizing that every country must continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in whatever way it deems best. The director also cautioned that “there is no guarantee” that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be developed soon, and that even if one is, it will not be a “silver bullet” for ending the virus.

In his remarks, Director Ghebreyesus seems to say that the lockdown measures imposed throughout the world beginning in March of this year were a good thing, at least for the climate.

The lockdown measures reduced carbon dioxide emissions from cars since travel was severely limited, and the director hopes this continues.

Mainstream media outlets agree.

In June, the New York Times ran an article looking at the “silver lining” of the lockdown measures which led to tens of millions of Americans losing their jobs, at least temporarily.

“Sharp decreases in traffic and better air quality have been reported around the world,” The Times reported.

The Times published another article discussing the “rare upside” to the lockdown measures. “Something rare and wonderful has emerged: a pure blue sky,” the authors wrote about the sky over New Delhi, India.

However, though there may be incidental benefits to the climate from nearly everyone locking themselves inside for months at a time, recent evidence has shown the tremendous human toll of the strategy.

One in four young adults have seriously contemplated suicide within the past month. Depression and substance abuse have also skyrocketed since the pandemic began.

Additionally, a recent poll found that 75% of Americans are worried that life will never get back to normal.

While Director Ghebreyesus may not want the world to go back to the way things were, most Americans are afraid that his wish may come true.

And this leaves a final question: Isn’t it the director of the WHO’s job to protect the globe from pandemics, and not climate change, rather than the other way around?

What do you think of the director’s comments?

Related Resources:

Alive to Thrive – Prevent Teen Suicide

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