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Aerial view of a city at night

Crises are connected. We should follow the science.

biology, earth scienceLaurie Fink, Chair of Science at the Science Museum of MinnesotaJun 2, 2020

“Many environmental problems also share features with COVID-19: We have a lot of knowledge about what is needed; we need people who are in the position to make decisions to understand the problem and possible solutions; and we need the social and political will to implement those changes at a large scale, for the benefit of society at large.”
— Jessica Hellman, PhD

I’ve been trying to make sense of our reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. They both have and will impact the way we live, they are both external threats, and their solutions rely on listening to scientists and scientific evidence. The difference is really in the immediacy of that impact—this is an acute problem vs a chronic problem. I’ve been thinking about what we can learn from this experience, while sheltering at home, that could help us tackle our changing climate as well. Can we start planning now to help our planet?

Then I read this wonderful article written by Jessica Hellmann, PhD. Jessica is not only the Director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, she’s also a Science Museum of Minnesota Trustee serving on the museum’s board. The article directly addresses the questions I’ve been thinking about:

“Now more than ever, we must recognize that the spread of infectious disease is tied to so many other challenges we face as a society, and there are lessons to learn from the right way to fight COVID-19 that can be expanded to other vexing problems.”

In the article, Dr. Hellmann describes critical links between the work of preventing the spread of disease and the work of making the world more sustainable. Two things she says in particular really resonate with me. One, that we need to listen to the evidence and understand the science; and, two, that this is all about systems:

“Perhaps more than anything else, COVID-19 reminds us that people are embedded in complex networks of relationships and interactions…. People working on the frontlines of environmental issues understand systems. They are champions of systems thinking.”

Thanks, Jessica for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

— Laurie Fink, Chair of Science