It is easy to dwell on all the things quarantine and self isolation have taken away. I certainly miss seeing the smile across my neighbors’ faces as we exchange pleasantries, now hidden out of sight. Let’s instead focus on what we’ve gained. I’ve written here before about my hurried desk lunches eaten with a spork (Feb. 2020), which I feel lucky now to enjoy seated next to my loved one.
It is not just me who is finding a silver-lining. You might have seen the news stories of wild boars wandering into Barcelona’s center, cows sunning on France’s beaches, or mountain goats overtaking streets in Wales. Mass quarantine and the threat of economic collapse is certainly no way to restore ecosystems, but it is remarkable how quickly nature responds as humans tread more lightly.
Air quality has also gotten a boost as fewer cars traverse highways. For example, in Los Angeles, scientists do not exclusively attribute the improvement in air quality to the state’s lockdown, but admit it has played a role. Climate scientists, as well as society, are getting a glimpse at what models have only been able to mimic. “If I could wave my magic wand and we all had electric cars tomorrow, I think this is what the air would look like,” Ronald Cohen, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the Univ. of California Berkeley, said in the LA Times.
Air quality is not the only improvement to city life. At the onset of the pandemic, I found it challenging to exercise outdoors, jockeying for six feet of space with other New Yorkers. Some cities originally responded by closing crowded parks, but realized that cutting off the supply does nothing to deal with demand. Cities throughout the world have begun to close now-quiet streets, transforming spaces once clogged with cars into spaces for social distancing. Oakland, CA, has led the U.S. in the effort to open streets for pedestrians. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about plans to open 100 miles of streets for pedestrians: “We need to see this as a transformational moment — even with all the pain, even with all the challenges — we are not going to bring New York City back the way it was.”
But, while the world outside is in flux, one thing has not changed — the four walls of my apartment, which have grown all too familiar these past few months. My eyes are so weary for a change of scenery that I’ve ordered a bag of mycelium to watch fungus grow. Perhaps yours are, too, motivating you to fix a rickety step, plant a bed of veggies, or organize a jammed closet.
CEP is not able to repaint your walls or rearrange your furniture, but we can deliver a bit of a change. It is not fleeting, like wild boars in Barcelona, a crisp LA skyline, or closed New York City streets, but a permanent update. You may notice that this issue of CEP looks a little different. While the change may appear to be modest, the CEP staff — ever proud to produce the flagship publication of AIChE — is excited to unveil this new look. Along with our refreshed design, we are working on an online flipbook that will give you another way to view CEP. As we continue to take steps to improve, we want to offer options to suit reader preferences, which include print and various virtual options.
Please help us to continue to progress and serve our readership. Send us an email or leave a comment on Engage to tell us how you like to read CEP and what you think about our refreshed design. We want to hear from you!
Elizabeth Pavone, Senior Editor
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