Optimism in the Time of a Crisis

by Sue Taggart

Did you know that March is Optimism Month?  If you didn’t, no worries, neither did we! And, considering that the world is in the middle of a pandemic, it’s definitely been a little challenging to be optimistic.

But now, it’s more important than ever to find some small bright-spots and reasons for optimism. While it’s important not to detract from the severity of the situation, we do have to remember that there is always a little light at the end of the tunnel. I have always been an eternal optimist, my glass is always half-full, and I’m a firm believer that positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking ever will. But in the last month, since the coronavirus exploded into our lives, it’s like we are all living in the worst kind of bad movie, one that’s on continual rerun. We can’t even go out and enjoy an evening with friends to take the edge off. However, there are some unexpected silver linings even in the midst of this terrible crisis.

Since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, many pollutants have been drastically reduced with the number of flights around the world plummeting, and many polluting plants have suspended operations. NASA satellite imagery shows a “drastic drop” in air pollution levels in China since the epidemic began. Most recently, new imagery from Northern Italy (the world’s leading outbreak point of the virus), shows pollution levels dropping significantly as well. The optimistic takeaway from this is that if we realize that the climate crisis is also a real danger to the lives of millions, we can harness this lesson for the future: reduce the number of flights, encourage work from home (and reduce car travel), lower consumption levels, and lead the world into a greener future. The hope is that when the virus is contained, we will all go back to normal, but with hard-earned lessons that will have the potential to lead humanity toward a better, more humane and sustainable world.

There have been many other bright spots that have brought a smile to my face and strengthened my faith in humanity. For example, the spontaneous singalongs that began from balconies in Europe and have now spread throughout the world.

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In country after country, people have responded by taking to their balconies, windows, and rooftops to sing to one another, to applaud and show gratitude to their health-care workers, to play music, and to lift one another’s spirits.

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National differences are being ignored as scientists from all over the world are working closely to find vaccines and cures, all in order to fight the common enemy. This is certainly a reason to feel optimistic.

It has also reminded me of the importance of friends and family, who in most of our busy lives we can rarely find the time to keep up with. From texts, social media messages and phone calls, I have been in touch with more people in the past week than in the past six months. It happened once before at 9/11, but the difference now is that we are all directly affected by this crisis. My optimistic hope is that what is now bringing us closer, will keep us closer.

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