‘2020’ had a very nice, symmetrical ring to it… until it actually arrived. Now, with almost half the year gone in virtual captivity for most of us, it will probably be remembered as the Year of the Virus or the Year of the Lockdown.
However, the worldwide shutdown has had some positive consequences, too. It seems that human beings manage to find a silver lining no matter how dark the cloud.
We could have predicted some of the benefits of the lockdown, for example, the fall in world pollution levels due to the massive decrease in daily commutes and international travel.
It is estimated that poor air quality costs the average person three years off their life expectancy. Marshall Burke, an environmental resource economist from Stanford University found that the improvement in air quality in China alone has saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70.
Chinese air quality has been markedly worse than the world average for decades due to the country’s over-industrialization. However, the improvement in air breathability is a worldwide phenomenon, and citizens the world over are already reaping its benefits.
The lockdown’s impact on emissions goes far beyond just workers traveling to and from work; it even includes moms driving to the store for groceries, running errands, and taking their children to sports practice. Covid-19 has put a stop to all of that.
As a result, online shopping which had already been on the uptick prior to the pandemic has boomed. The lockdown was just what the doctor ordered, so to speak, for online retailers. The surge in online apparel shopping has been a boon for reputable websites like Seven.Deals, which consistently offer huge savings.
Perhaps the most positive side-effect of the lockdown that we can personally see has been the forced departure from junk food and unhealthy precooked meals. A study by Reuters of 11,000 people across 11 countries found that the lockdown has inspired a significant shift in eating habits.
Previously, a quick and convenient lunch was the most unavoidable reason to eat out virtually every single day for most workers. A wide choice of midday meals was conveniently available at countless restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the workplace. Unfortunately, that convenience brought with it a wealth of unhealthy options soaked in saturated fats and excess calories.
With the daily commute to and from work gone, people are easily saving at least an hour of travel time to dedicate to their own wellbeing. It seems that this additional time is being put to good use in creating healthy meals at home.
There has actually been a twofold impetus behind the trend towards better eating. The second reason is the lack of temptation.
With trips to stores becoming few and far between, there is a decreased likelihood of being tempted to impulse-buy treats and comfort food off the shelves. Junk food ads are still running on TV but with the opportunity to shop so scarce itself, there has been an inevitable decline in the amount of salt, sugar, and artificial additives in our diets.
One of the most alarming things about the lockdown period was the sight of empty store shelves. For most of us, it was a scene that we had only seen in the news from other countries, but could never imagine experiencing here at home. The shock has inspired a shift towards self-sufficiency.
From making bread at home (which led to dry yeast flying off the shelves) to a surge in sales of gardening tools and seeds, Americans are taking matters into their own hands. Data shows that there has been a 36 percent increase in the number of us growing vegetables, herbs and tomatoes at home. A whopping 65 percent of those individuals said that they were inspired to do so because of the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus.
This trend is partially related to the point about healthy eating which we touched on above. People have found that they can grow fresh produce at home, foregoing the pesticides and additives that are essential to mass-produced crops. With the pride and satisfaction of growing your own food comes the pleasure of creating meals that your own hard work has reaped.
The result is meals that taste better, cost less to make, and bring with them myriad health benefits for the entire family.
If the lockdown has taught us one thing, it is that we can entertain ourselves at home. While most people inevitably fall into the trap of binge-watching TV shows and movies, some are taking the creative route out of boredom.
There has been an explosion in the number of DIY projects that people are attempting in their own homes. The projects range from simple forays into art and decoration to furniture builds and automobile restoration. For others, it manifests as a simple rearrangement of furniture in every room of the house.
Whatever form thee creativity takes, there is no doubt that the world is discovering an entirely new dimension to its creativity in isolation.
In fact, it seems that while late-night show hosts are struggling to produce content from the solitude of their palatial homes, the average YouTuber and Twitch streamer is finding no such challenge. There has been a substantial increase in the number of video channels creating and uploading original content on a regular basis this year.
On a more serious and practical note, inventors and researchers are turning their ingenuity to solving the unique problems that the coronavirus presents. With patents for devices from hands-free door openers to special ventilators to antiviral masks, they are proving that the saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is absolutely true.
A Testament to Human Spirit
As we approach the middle of the year, there seems to be some respite from the relentless bad news. Data indicates that the number of new infections has begun to taper off and that many more people are recovering from the disease than before. Meanwhile, scientists have made significant progress towards the development of a vaccine.
For all the misery the coronavirus has inspired, the most important lesson we can take from it is that the indomitable human spirit always prevails.