The Unthinkable

In early March the NBA canceled its season; soon thereafter York Public Schools went on an extended break. Regardless of what event first made you think, “Wow, this is unthinkable,” there have since been numerous proclamations that remind us we are living in unimaginable times. To quote a recent article in The New Yorker, “The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable.”  Indeed, the virus has wreaked havoc across the world, but it has also opened a window. As we look through, we can imagine a future that was once impossible.

Nature Climate Change recently published a plethora of remarkable statistics concerning decreases in carbon emissions during the pandemic (Link). For example, daily carbon dioxide emissions in individual countries decreased by 26% on average from their peak in 2019. That would have been unthinkable! Now, it’s not only possible, but a reality. The article points out that the biggest drops in carbon emissions were caused by reductions in aviation and surface transport. Sadly, the article also concludes that the hefty reductions are likely temporary as civilization returns to pre-pandemic activity.

But do we really want to go back to pre-pandemic times, a time when humanity was slowly destroying the planet?  We have this newly opened window to look through. One can now see the Himalayan Mountain Range from more than 100 miles away, clear skies over places like California, and streets empty of cars where people are walking and biking. We also see the power of unity and cooperation within communities. The virus has sadly taken too many lives, but despite that mountain of grief, it can be like the heart attack that didn’t kill you — it’s a wake-up call with a new respect for life, a life with new possibilities. Think for a moment about how we can carry the lessons learned during the pandemic into our post-pandemic lives. Maybe even make a list of three things we can do as individuals and a few things we can do as York Ready for Climate Action. We can now imagine a clean, clear future that was once impossible. We should open our eyes to envision a vast realm of new possibilities.


Michele Putko

View All Resources