Shutdown highlights need for environmental reflection

Kayla Heidenreich, Editor

The coronavirus crisis has halted our entire society. This plethora of time is giving space for not only people to be able to take a breath and relax, but the planet as well.

“Being in L.A. has been really interesting because we are notorious for our smog, but ever since the stay-at-home order started the smog has just stopped,” said Michelle Pinon, the Sierra Club’s Arctic organizer. “It has been beautiful; you can see blue skies regularly which is not something that is common in for Los Angeles.”

The shutdown began at the start of April and is projected to, at the minimum, be in order until early May. People across the country are being stripped of their day-to-day routines and society’s structures are breaking down.

“I think a lot of people are having really deep reflections on what is most meaningful in their life right now, and I am hopeful that people are coming to the realization that it’s not stuff, it’s not being able to go on those luxurious trips,” said Pinon. “It might actually be your family and your community and that there’s ways to hold onto that without depending so heavily on fossil fuels.”

The pandemic shutdown is showing a glimpse of what a world of reduced fossil fuels would look like, and it looks good. Without the urgent everyday need for oil, gas prices have significantly dropped across the nation. This is giving places like Alaska’s Arctic Refuge much needed breathing room. In the last two months, oil prices have dropped from $60 a barrel to $20, making it economically infeasible for companies like Chevron to develop in these delicate areas. While oil companies’ values are collapsing, renewable energies such as wind and solar are growing.

The fight between environment and economy continues with Trump administration rollbacks on environmental regulations, weakening the control of the release of mercury and other toxins produced by oil and coal power plants under the auspices of propping the falling economy.

“It’s frustrating to feel like it’s impossible for my voice to be heard at a time like this,” said Izzy Bertram, Sierra Nevada University Outdoor and Adventure Leadership and Environmental Science major, and treasurer of the new Protect Our Winters student alliance club. “If anything, now is the perfect time to rebuild our societal structure and move away from any non-renewable energy sources.”

“The climate crisis is the next big pandemic,” Bertram said.

The Sierra Club will host a webinar in the next couple weeks to communicate information about the oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic Refuge.