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living in the corona era



I feel that it has become more realistic to imagine a future coexisting with the pandemic rather than the post-pandemic. It may have become a harsh reality for the Earth and humans where we don’t even know what it looks like to “win” against the virus. Maybe our only choice is to accept it, wait, and live trying to keep it off our minds.


I’m living in Korea right now, and I have been under tremendous stress and fear since late February listening to the daily news about the novel coronavirus and the increasing number of cases. I watch every interaction and move I make, and I can’t help but feel nervous when I’m out.


The unstable travel restrictions between Japan and Korea were more drastic than I had imagined. I felt bad for the study abroad students who were filled with excitement but had no choice but to return. My heart hurt for my friends who are in long distance relationships from Korea to Japan and felt emotionally unstable from not knowing when they’d be able to see their partners next.


In this pandemic, fear and anxiety are spreading. These feelings aren’t only towards the virus itself, it’s also towards the economy and financial difficulty. It is hard to predict how many companies will go bankrupt and how many people will become unemployed -- it is causing a shock globally.


Many countries are taking measures to stop the spread of the virus by stopping international travel and requesting or legally enforcing people to stay home. I think it’s very important that everybody just stays put in this terrible situation. In Korea, we have been practicing social distancing which is similar to how Japan has been telling citizens to avoid the three Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, close-contact settings).


While social distancing has been an effective strategy against the virus, it made social issues more apparent. For example, domestic violence and child abuse has been on the rise. The Executive Director of the United Nations entity UN Women has stated that women living with abusive partners are becoming more isolated. Of course, it’s not only women -- children are also in a vulnerable position here. It made me think of how staying home isn’t a safe option for everyone and only protects a portion of people.


* エッセンシャル・ワーカー=「人々の生活維持に欠くことのできない仕事をしている人。例えば医療従事者、食品スーパー、薬局、公共交通機関で働く人たち、など。」

In addition to the increase in domestic violence and child abuse, other issues like dismissal of temporary employees and increased care work as a result of family members working from home and schools closing. Social issues to do with the effect of social distancing on mental health, and essential workers who don’t have the option of staying home are on the news. This situation is a crisis for many people. The financial crisis and social distancing has made the least privileged members of society even more powerless. This systemic inequality is not a new issue that has come out of the spread of the virus; we must not forget that these were already-existing deep rooted problems within society.


Last year, I wrote an article about PM 2.5 (fine particulate air pollutant) and human-centric activity and ideology have created a nightmarish reality. It is also said that the pandemic is caused by human destruction of habitats and ecosystems. Maybe this global pandemic will inevitably give us an opportunity to reflect on human-centric activity and ideology.


For example, I have allergies that are triggered by PM 2.5 but because of measures taken against the novel coronavirus, the air has gotten better and I haven’t gotten any allergy symptoms since the end of February. The sky is blue, as if the smog I saw every day never existed. Apparently the air quality is vastly improving in China as well. While the world is suffering economically, it was surprising to see how stopping the world for a second affects the environment.


I hope that this situation comes to an end soon, and I really want to return to Japan. I miss the days when I would fly back to Japan just to eat gyudon (beef over rice) my favourite dish. But as we wish for the end of the pandemic, I think we also have to acknowledge the social and environmental issues that have become more visible as well as human-centric ideology and take measures against them.


Our environment and ways of life have been rapidly changing with these events, and I even feel fear towards how quickly everything happened. Instead of just being passively swallowed by the tide of change, I want to discuss these deep rooted problems on our Earth with you. I would love to hear your opinions, and put our minds together to think about these issues!


Forbes JAPAN - 『新型コロナは「敵」ではない。哲学者が説くウイルスとの「共生」

Forbes JAPAN - 『中国の大気汚染が劇的に改善、「死亡率が大幅に低下」との試算

Brut Japan - 『霊長類学者ジェーン・グドールからのメッセージ

Yahoo! Japan - 『“エッセンシャル・ワーカー”の新型コロナでの死を他人事にしないために -『コロナ禍、メンタルヘルスに「深く広範な影響」 適切な介入を

NHK - 『外出制限でDV増加懸念 国連機関が警鐘 新型コロナウイルス

Images by Yurina

English Translated by Kiara

Edited by Eli, Hikari Sawada, Kiara and Hikari

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