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Ashley M Johnston

To be honest, I was pretty discouraged while reading this article and kept trying to think of differences in jobs, income, education that might be a greater contribution to the outcome. While I wish that these factors were discussed more, I feel like several underlying problems could be the lack of accurate information, a mistrust in certain media or science, a lack of a drive to critically think through issues, and/or accepting information coming from one source instead of finding out multiple sources and making educated decisions. I wish that people would be open to facts and the circumstances even when it means we have to change our behavior. What is happening here with both COVID-19 and climate change is a rejection of the facts because it doesn’t benefit us. I’m trying to think about how willful ignorance could be added into an economic model, and maybe they don’t want to internalize the costs or even recognize that great costs are falling on others. I don’t know if this makes much sense but these were my first initial thoughts.

Steven Black

There are a few interesting takeaways from this article. First, it is interesting and a little scary that a Norwegian company can have access to everyone's phone location data to see where people go and who they interact with. It is beneficial for situations like this but seems to have many potential risks. It was also interesting, although not surprising, to see the significant correlation between people who take climate change seriously and people who take social distancing seriously. I read a similar article this morning (I will link it if I can find it again) comparing people's desire to return to normal behavior based on their political party. There's been a lot of positive news with the rate of infection steadily decreasing and the overall curve flattening that many Republicans want to return to normal behavior by the end of the month while many Democrats want to extend the stay in place order through May. This is another example of divulgence in private and social costs. Many people are wanting to keep their lives as normal as possible (minimizing private cost), which is putting society as a whole at risk.

Not the article I was looking for but interesting piece on racial disparities:


An interesting note about these current times is that we are literally all in this together. There are some communities that are being impacted more than others by this outbreak, but, ultimately, it has entered the United States and has now changed everyone's reality. There are people who are taking varied approaches in their responses. It honestly seems logical to me that the counties that voted for Trump in 2016 would be less likely to practice social distancing. These individuals elected Trump for a variety of reasons - because he was an outsider to politics, because he promised to drain the swamp, build the wall, etc. These voters selected a candidate they felt best represented their values or what they hoped the future nation would look like. These voters were anti-bureaucracy and distrustful of politicians and the government. These would likely be the same people who have freedom at the forefronts of their minds. The connection I drew from the Trump counties and the poor adherence to the social distancing guidelines was that these people probably place a large amount of value on their individual freedoms - whether that be freedom to own a gun or freedom to stand less than 6ft apart from someone in the line. Our country is made up of many individuals and when some of these individuals are highly susceptible to respiratory illness, it is frustrating to see so many individuals not complying with the CDCs guidelines.

Didi Pace

There are very few things that are truly ‘felt’ globally. Climate change and coronavirus are 2 of these things. Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing our world today. Even if we cut all emissions tomorrow, we would still experience climate change effects. If global warming continues unchecked, these effects will certainly be worse. Luckily, there are tangible solutions that mitigate these harsh realities. We can do something about global warming, but we must collectively start now.
In the same vein, coronavirus is one the greatest global health challenges. Even if everybody properly contains the spread tomorrow, deaths will still occur. Just like climate change, we have the tangible solutions that stop the spread of the virus. We must all take these actions collectively, though. As we have seen with climate change, when one or more involved parties do not comply, it is ruined for the rest of us.

Sydney Goldstein

It’s discouraging, but not surprising that many people in the US are not doing their part and staying home. In countries with a more centralized government the social contract to which citizens subscribe is far more extensive. For example, in China and Singapore the government simply states, “don’t leave your house,” and people won’t because they have faith that the government is acting in the people's interest. In the United States, people are reluctant to give up personal freedoms, even if overall it would benefit society. There seems to be a mentality that the government can’t tell people to stay home because that is “unconstitutional” and infringes on the liberties and freedoms this country was founded on. Furthermore, there seems to be a very individualist view of the problem. Most of the people who are ignoring shelter in place orders seem to be in the mind set that they are young, healthy, and untouchable. But, the fear is not necessarily for them as individuals. Shelter in place orders exist so that those who are essential personnel and can’t stay home, who may be vulnerable are less likely to be infected. It's all about flattening the curve in a way that’s similar to the concept of herd immunity. There’s a high likelihood that a lack of understanding of this is what leads people to ignore shelter in place orders. This is probably why those with lower levels of education are more likely to not practice social distancing, as discussed in the article. Income likely relates to this since income and education are confounding variables in which higher levels of education usually correlate to higher income. This would explain why those with lower income are also less likely to practice social distancing.

On a similar note, studies have found that poorer communities have higher rates of contracting the virus as well as higher death rates. I wonder if it is due to the factors discussed above, environmental justice issue, or some function of both. It is most likely the latter, but seeing research on this would be fascinating.

An interesting article on COVID-19 and poor communities:

Nikki Doherty

This article again stresses why moral suasion is likely ineffective on its own. I have noticed a main obstacle to social distancing is that others think that not everybody is doing it… so in turn, ask themselves “why should I do it?” It is like people think they are being cheated, having to remain inside as other people continue their daily lives. If others are going to take advantage of the system, they are not going to be the ones taken advantage of. Pair this observation with a growing/encouraged distrust of media and a lack of cohesion among state responses, and no one knows what to believe or what is right. I think that the information presented in the article suggests that stricter and more concrete consequences are needed to change individual level behavior in this country—both in regards to the current crisis and to climate change. As Hardin argued and we have often discussed in class, we need something that is mutually agreed upon.

I am not surprised that believing in climate change is the biggest predictor of social distancing behavior. These people are probably more willing to give up some individual short-term pleasures for the future welfare of the environment and future generations. Others are more likely to free ride on each other and free ride on the future (a take-away I remember from Solow, earlier in the semester). Like Steven mentions, this is clearly a divide between people willing to take in account the social cost and those who only consider private costs.

When we ask the question “Who is not listening?”, one thing we must consider is who has the “privilege” to social distance. Many people don’t have means to purchase things like hand sanitizer or even water to wash their hands. Staying at home might also not be affordable to all; maybe some need to keep working, or searching for jobs to afford the bare necessities. We cannot glaze over these circumstances... and talk about these people as if they are “choosing” not to social distance. The article does nod to this, but I think that it is often understated in daily conversations and worth highlighting. It is interesting that counties with more cases exhibit lower levels of social distancing, relative to places with a lower number of cases but that have experienced a death. Places with increased numbers of cases might have higher vulnerability (more likely to contract the virus, because they cannot protect themselves or stay indoors) like discussed above. Or, it may have a higher density of people so more moving around. I wonder what is driving this.

Margot McConnell

I found this article particularly interesting because of the talk about Texas.
When COVID-19 was beginning to be a problem, our governor refused to put a shelter-in-place order in Texas because there were only certain hot spots within the state, especially in Dallas. Therefore, he left it up to individual counties/cities to make these decisions about shelter-in-place. The argument behind it was a lot of Texas is rural areas and they were not high risk for COVID-19 like other cities such as Dallas with an international airport and so on. Just because Dallas puts a shelter-in-place order does not mean that people are not going to travel to other cities in Texas and potentially spread the virus. The main problem with this was that people who live in Dallas and Houston for example were traveling to the lake houses or ranches on the weekend in rural areas. While these people probably did not think much about it, they were going to restaurants and grocery stores in these rural towns and had the potential to expose people there. And to take this one step further, as I discussed in my development final paper last semester, Texas really lacks rural health care. There is a lot of room for improvement. If a lot of these rural towns have outbreaks of COVID-19, it could potentially be really bad. The moral of the story is that there has to be a collective action even if we are just talking within a single state about COVID-19. People regardless of where they live need to collectively decide that we are all going to stay in one place and not be traveling back and forth. It is not fair to people in small rural towns to be exposed to COVID-19 just because other people are being selfish and traveling to their other houses on the weekends.

Olivia Luzzio

The prospect that attitudes towards climate change are a strong predictor of social distancing behavior is sensible and disconcerting. An observation I have made over the past several weeks is that the COVID-19 pandemic is akin to taking the past century of climate change and the next century of climate change and condensing the crisis into a two-month period. The parallels are as follows. First, people had to be convinced to believe in the threat of COVID-19 and that it is not “fake news” or “just another flu”, just as we are still trying to convince too many that climate change is a real threat. Second, action on COVID-19 was not taken until it was already upon us, and similarly the U.S. has failed to take significant steps toward eradicating climate change because its impact on our lives at this point seems minimal. Third, collective action is required to kill COVID-19, and those in society who are socially responsible are held back by those who refuse to commit to social distancing. Combatting climate change also requires collective action, but the efforts of those who conserve energy and watch their carbon footprints are countered by those who continue to consume energy and pollute. The list of similarities could go on.
The disconcerting aspect of the relationship between social distancing behavior and attitude toward climate change is that climate change is closely tied to politics in the United States. This begs the question of whether social distancing has a political aspect to it as well. I would contend that there are traits characteristic of those who do not support the fight against climate change and are also not doing their part by social distancing: Concern for one’s self over society as a whole. On the flip side, supporters of environmental protection and commitment to social distancing prioritize the good of society over themselves. Largely, these are the same types of people who agree with redistributive policies, which social distancing and environmental preservation technically are.
On a positive note, the close resemblance of the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis (aside from time-span and the accompanied sense of urgency) gives us the chance to learn something as a society about acting as a collective. If protective measures were being taken to address climate change to the same extent that they are to address COVID-19, perhaps Americans could be spared a significant portion of the climate-induced costs we are expected to incur over the next century. However, this realization about the importance of collective action is one society must come to as a whole, which means that it requires collective action in itself. :/

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