🌈 3 Ways the Pandemic Made Things Better
Hey sometimes I can be positive, I'm not Last Week Tonight you guys.
It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong. It’s a lot harder to think about what’s going right. Here are three examples of things we’re doing better:
Fossil fuel consumption hit a 30-year low
Welcome back to 1992! Because even though our population and industrial manufacturing has grown, the U.S. saw the greatest drop in fossil fuel consumption since records starting being kept in 1949. It’s not just the United States either, fossil fuel usage is starting to decline globally as well.
Most experts agree that gasoline consumption peaked in the years right before the pandemic. Then the pandemic hit and the next two years changed our relationship with gasoline. Lots of people sold their cars. Many moved back home to live with family. Almost a third gave up their commutes and transitioned permanently to working from home.
Meanwhile, the variety, availability, efficiency and affordability of electric cars kept increasing throughout the pandemic (even I finally bought one). Finally, over the last two years oil became expensive. Russian sanctions, inflation and the cost of drilling and refining petroleum made gasoline expensive enough to result in lower demand and usage.
But its not all roses - as I mentioned in an earlier edition, the rapid shift to a gasoline-free future, though a boon for the planet, will still leave some of the most vulnerable in a lurch.
If unions are a relic, young people didn’t get the message
One of the first meetings I had when I moved to Washington D.C. in 2010 was with a colleague at the National Labor Relations Board. He told me unions were a relic and had been on the decline for decades. His job, and the existence of his agency, was in jeopardy … could he come work with me instead?
Things couldn’t be more different today. Union membership is on the rise. Professions such as accountancy and the law, that previously never affiliated themselves with unions, are seeing demand for membership skyrocket. More importantly, union membership is diversifying from a male-dominated grouping to include far more women as well. As a recent Washington Post story notes those pushing for union membership today are a diverse lot:
It’s not just Starbucks baristas and Trader Joe’s cashiers, but also museum workers, digital journalists, grad students, nurses, adjunct professors, cannabis workers, and those toiling for political campaigns and nonprofit organizations like the Audubon Society and the Brookings Institution'
The public at large now sees unions more positively than it has in decades - by some estimates 71% of Americans support drives for union membership.
Time and money are luxuries only the well-off can afford. It lets those privileged people (and I include myself among them) make thoughtful decisions about how best to use their time and money … a process which often generates even more time and money. The pandemic gave many Americans this same luxury of time and space to reconsider and reframe how they work and why. We are still seeing the result of this reframing play out in the reckoning that is the #quietquitting movement.
Healthcare is becoming more equitable
More slowly than most would like, but it is happening.
The pandemic unearthed cracks in the foundation of the U.S. health care system and exposed those cracks to populations that had never witnessed them before. All of us had to deal with a fundamentally broken medical care system, whether it was hunting for a vaccine appointment or getting a critical test done at a time when no one was accepting patients for non-COVID issues.
The pandemic also exposed just how inequitable the health care system is for Black and brown communities, many of whom died of COVID-19 at a rate much higher than their white counterparts.
But it looks like we are learning good lessons from a terrible experience:
Telehealth, which can be a great equalizer in healthcare delivery, grew during the pandemic and is here to stay. This is great news for those who are elderly, can’t drive, or live in rural parts of the country.
Prescription drug costs are dropping. The pandemic encouraged many to wonder: if we can receive cutting edge vaccines for free or at very low-cost, why are we paying hundreds of dollars for medication, like insulin, that was invented a century ago? This has led to lawmakers from both parties to legislate for lower drug prices across the board. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act capped insulin prices for Medicare patients and the lower pricing is already making its way into the private insurance market.
So spread the news. There’s lot of doom and gloom, but its not ALL doom and gloom :)
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📅 Reading & Watching
Andor on Disney+ … don’t @ me bro.
Amy McGrath ran for the House and then lost. Then she ran against Mitch McConnell for the Senate … and lost. But she just doesn't give up - instead she started Honor Bound, a non-profit that encourages women who have served in the armed forces to run for political office.
I’m not crazy about reality but its still the only place to get a decent meal.