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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. :/

Walker Morris

Patrick Sharkey's article is provides further evidence of one of the greatest challenges facing America as a society. This challenge is swift collective action during times of crisis. Collective action has been a difficulty for the United States since it's founding. During World War II, it took the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the death of over 2,000 Americans for society to unite behind the cause of stopping the global expansion of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. Twenty years later, Americans once again found themselves acting on an issue that was long overdue when millions rallied behind the Civil Rights Movement in the name of racial equality. Both of these examples represent delayed responses to issues that threatened the fabric of our nation. Furthermore, collective action to address these issues led to long-term economic changes. In the case of World War II, the involvement of the United States ensured a definitive end to the Great Depression, while giving millions of women their first genuine opportunity to enter the workforce. The Civil Rights had significant economic impacts as well such as eliminating discriminatory Jim Crow Era laws, ensuring that minority groups could vote, and improving the educational opportunities of millions. The collective action during these times of national crisis led to profound societal changes that have helped shape our modern economy.

Despite the great changes that came out of these events, it still took years of hardship and national crises to achieve significant change. For over a month, the United States has faced a new crisis in the form of a pandemic. While a majority of the population has responded by taking quarantine measures and extending help to America's most vulnerable households, it is still not enough. As Sharkey's article points out, millions of Americans have yet to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in a meaningful way. Unfortunately this puts the entire country, and consequently the entire economy at risk. Choosing not to social distance could ensure that the coronavirus lives on for months if not years. This would mean more unemployment, more death, and less economic productivity; worsening the impending recession that already looms over the United States economy. In order to minimize the economic and health crises that will emerge from the coronavirus, virtually all of America must embrace social distancing, self-quarantining, and good hygiene. If not, catastrophe could be inevitable. Starkey also points out a correlation between Americans who ignore social distancing measure and those who chose to reject the notion of global warming. This only furthers concerns about the future of the United States economy. While I am confident that Americans will inevitably rally against these threats and take collective action to protect our health and future as a planet, the collective response may come too late as it did in World War II and the Civil Rights Era. While the bombing of a naval base and high death counts from a virus have served as wake-up calls for America. There may not be a wake-up call for climate change. Flooding, air pollution, and the extinction of more species could lead to millions of deaths and permanent economic damage not only in the United States, but throughout the rest of the world. This is what makes collective action in the context of climate change so difficult; it requires unity from virtually every country on the planet, something that many nations can't even achieve domestically. Contrary to Sharkey's beliefs, I feel that the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has been the greatest example of international collective action in my lifetime. I am optimistic that collective action in the context of the coronavirus could feed into collective action against climate change.

An additional article that I found on Facebook about the impact of the coronavirus on air pollution in the Himalayas:

Jacob Thompson

I found this article to be interesting because it reflected a lot of what I saw immediately upon returning home to Richmond after school closed. Many people my age continued to hang out in large groups, going to sun bathe on the James River and completely disregarding the idea of social distancing. However, as the death toll began to rise in Richmond, I started to witness a lot more people taking it seriously and beginning to stay home. While I find it disheartening that death is the only factor that incentivizes people to stay home, I'm at least optimistic in the idea that people around me are finally taking the threat seriously. Another point from this article that I found interesting was the overall decrease in travel and movement since the start of the pandemic. This has brought up the question of how the coronavirus has affected our output of emissions and pollution level. While I initially thought this overall decrease in pollution to be a positive side-effect, I've since changed my mind. An article by NBC expresses worry about this sudden decrease, as some economies may increase production significantly and travel will increase substantially once this pandemic passes (https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/coronavirus-lockdowns-have-sent-pollution-plummeting-environmentalists-worry-about-what-n1178326). Many countries will want to help their economy bounce back as quickly as possible, and I don't find it likely that they will consider the effects on the environment when they do so.

Noah Gallagher

Frankly, it's a difficult balance maintaining freedoms and also solving problems collectively. While it's very easy to do one without the other (ex: China, welding the doors of its citizens shut), we're better off in a society that can do both. That's a tough balance, particularly in a nation with a divided government (in both federalist and partisan ways). Unfortunately, we were far too slow to react to this, and missed the window of opportunity to maximize both - an opportunity that South Korea and several other nations took. Regaining our freedoms without endangering our citizens is an incredibly difficult task that will take time - perhaps more than we are willing or able to give. I worry that our impatience and desire to return to a state of normalcy will ultimately increase the scale of the problem.

We've also been deeply troubled by the rise of science-denialism and the rejection of our mutual responsibilities towards one another. Through much of this year, I heard from people that the virus was no worse than the flu, and that it would be seasonal. One only needed to listen to the epidemiologists to know that this was substantially worse than a bad flu season. I heard from a number of people that they were willing to continue their day to day activities because they were young and the virus would be unlikely to kill them - often with no regard for the dangers that they would place their families in. Of course, Washington and Lee students were better about this than most (I generally think that we are more collectively responsible). As time went on, we've gotten better about this. I have to think that this is, to some extent, people accepting the scientific consensus of the dangers of the virus. This is a clear cut case where the damages are immediate and directly linked, even to the untrained eye.

Of course, we face the same problems with climate change, and if people wait until the dangers impact them personally, then it could be far too late.


Joey Dunn

It is consistently fascinating how many of these issues are so interconnected. Most of the connections have very sad implications, i.e. the connection between environmental justice and human health or belief in climate change and adherence to social distancing. It is also fascinating and sad how so many of what should be non-partisan discussions become so controversial based on your politics. Political parties have nothing to do with science, yet democrats have become the party of scientific reasoning while republicans shout them down with fake news and the economy over all else. Climate change and covid-19 have nothing to do with political ideology, and we should have a relatively simple time agreeing on how to react.

Maisie Strawn

This article gave specific examples from south Texas counties, but it could have been written about my own community, Gloucester, Va. We currently have a D- on the Unacast Covid-19 Social Distancing Scoreboard (https://www.unacast.com/covid19/social-distancing-scoreboard). To be fair, many people in my county are employed in industries that are deemed "essential," and I'm not sure how that plays into Unacast's ranking. But, many who could isolate and socially distance are not. I can definitely see the factors this article mentions, education, political identity, social capital, playing into that. As a matter of curiosity, I pulled up Yale's Climate Opinion Map to compare to the Unacast scoreboard map. Unsurprisingly, the estimated percentage of adults who believe climate change is happening in my county is 8% less than the national average. (https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/)

Bridget Bartley

This article really got me interested in seeing which states had yet to order their residents to stay at home. I couldn't find any news source that were more up to date than Vox's claim of 8 states without Stay-At-Home (SAH) orders, but I looked into the NYT article they linked in claiming that.


This article is very interesting as it shows the map of the most recent states to file SAH orders. I found the pattern of movement from the outside inward to be interesting. In general, that makes sense with the population being relatively lower in central states. However, Vox's article find that the size of a population does not really effect their attitudes about social distancing. The argument that income, education, unemployment, social capital, etc. takes me back to most lectures in POV 101. Such qualities of an area tell you a lot about its population. I find it a bit discouraging though. Are we throwing the blame on these people? The question Sharkey poses: "In a divided nation, how do we come together — figuratively, for the time being — to solve collective challenges?" is one that is so complex and needs our country's greatest minds working on how to solve it. I have hope.

The article's piece on Virgina just made me giggle. Whether or not society consider's us the south, Governor Northam claimed issuing a stay-at-home order was a matter of semantics. I take this as him figuring we would be bright enough to just act in such a way that the formal order maybe would be unnecessary. It took him hearing about masses on the beach as if all was normal to finally put the formal order in place. I wonder if the states that have yet to file a formal order are just following the national health official's recommendations, or if their leaders are just being ignorant?

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