Published August 28, 2020
Editorial by Meg Kerr, Senior Director of Policy
I hope that everyone is safe and healthy and weathering these difficult times as well as one can. I am not optimistic that the risks of COVID-19 will change soon, but I do think that we are learning useful lessons as the pandemic unfolds. It is vital that we care for the most vulnerable people in our communities, value heath-care providers and take responsibility for our impact on the world around us.
Governor Raimondo’s regular emails during the pandemic have been a welcome source of information for me. The emails report on the trajectory of cases in the state and review policy strategies crafted to help Rhode Islanders get through the pandemic safely. The emails almost always end with the statement, “We’re all in this together,” a reminder that the difficulties we are suffering are broadly shared by everyone in the state. Governor Raimondo is reminding us that each of us has an important job to do. Each individual is just one among the approximately one million people in the state, but we are part of a broader community. And we can decide to be a powerful force for good or harm. We can behave as an individual untethered from the rest of the state and the environment or we can act as if we are part of a broad arc of humanity extending into the past and (hopefully) many, many years into the future. Governor Raimondo is asking us to take collective responsibility, and place the good of the community, our future grandkids or the grandkids of our neighbors, and the good of the world above our own individual desires and whims. Wear a mask. Wash our hands. Stay out of crowds as much as possible and always practice social distancing.
As the pandemic has raced around the globe, we have learned that seemingly healthy people can be carrying the virus and inadvertently spread it to the people they contact. We have seen how careless gatherings at beaches and parties as well as deeply important gatherings like funerals have led to the infection of entire groups of friends and families. The message is clear. We are all in this together and we all need to take responsibility for our own actions to protect our neighbors and friends.
Environmental organizations like Audubon have been promoting the “Your actions make a difference. Please do the right thing” message for decades. We talk about the need for people to reduce their personal carbon footprint by choosing to take a bus rather than drive a car, eat less (or no) meat and support the development of properly sited renewable energy. We make the connections between individual homeowner’s use of water to support lush green lawns which can reduce the volume of water in rivers and streams for fish and other wildlife. We work to address stormwater pollution by showing people that the rain falling on their homes, buildings, roads and businesses carries significant pollution to local waterways. The only way to effectively reduce this pollution is to take individual actions like not using fertilizers and pesticides, installing rain gardens and using rain barrels. We encourage everyone to protect pollinators by planting native shrubs and flowers and eliminating pesticide use as much as possible.
All of us often feel insignificant compared to the environmental problems faced by our state, country and the world. “Will it really matter if I do the right thing?”, we ask ourselves. “What possible difference can ONE person make?”
The COVID-19 pandemic is answering that question for us. Yes, we are just one person, but even one person can make a real difference in the world. “We’re all in this together.”