Ollie (G), Shell

In physics, Isaac Newton notoriously understood that ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ This is universally identified as Newton’s 3rd Law. Philosophers are known to manipulate this and testify that for every negative occurrence there is also a positive conclusion. In this article, to a certain extent, I intend to modify one’s views on the existing coronavirus pandemic. I am sure everyone would agree that the ultimate aftermath of COVID-19 will be extensive impairment to the economy, social lives and will take many lives and, thus, overall will immensely offset any apparent ‘positive effects’. In spite of this, one thing that has developed into a quotidian occurrence is the rhythmic pessimistic publications regarding a negatively impacted global population. However, the coronavirus does have some discrete benefits.

Firstly, from cleaner air to unshackled wildlife, coronavirus lockdowns throughout the planet appear to have had copious positive effects on the environment. With COVID-19 initiating the majority to be confined to home and the local area, the crime rate has consequently plummeted, with the exclusion of a few specific offences. Moreover, traffic and pollution levels have also plunged comprehensively. NASA satellites have commenced documenting the extent to which pollution has subsided in so many regions of the globe. The results of this demonstrate how carbon emissions have fallen by over 25% in the most polluted areas including near Wuhan, China. A multitude of flights have been abandoned and crude oil has become relatively ‘worthless’. The population could only hope for such a scenario amidst the era of pollution and emission. Therefore, I would agree with the USA’s Dr Burke who rightfully claims, ‘a pandemic is a terrible way to improve environmental health.’

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ originates from two words: one connoting ‘danger’ the other meaning ‘opportunity’. Due to the ruinous present coronavirus epidemic, the world has also seen some progressive health effects from major modifications in human behaviour. To begin with, the pandemic is said to have extended everyone’s alertness of general hygiene and health. Having been constantly prompted to wash hands and stay healthy, hopefully this will persist in the future and reduce fatalities from flu or more common communicable diseases. Furthermore, during the pandemic, people have been encouraged to volunteer and offer support within local communities as much as possible. As a result of this, residents all over the world have seen how we have come together amidst some of the hardest times. People have made connections within these communities which perhaps may have never been made through both the real and digital world. Moreover, as the weekly claps for the NHS exhibit, a greater appreciation for our key workers is evident. The world has also acquired a greater appreciation of everything day-to-day life has to offer without having to board on long flights and go to picturesque destinations abroad. Consequently, I would argue that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the human race might become more grateful, aware and appreciative.

Having said all this, research from previous global disasters shows that positive change generally diminishes over time. Ultimately, we prioritise the restoration of societal functions rather than pro-environmental and behavioural actions. Maintaining any change in behaviour is difficult and depends on many factors including motivations, routines, resources, self-determination and social influences.



Amelia (J), Fifth Form

Anne Frank questioned in her diary whether anyone would be ‘interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl’. As she did not know the extent of influence that her diary would go on to gain, she was, like all diary writers, writing primarily for herself.

In the time of Coronavirus, an increase has been seen in the number of people recording thoughts, acts and emotions around the world, from the residents in Hubei to the social media videos entitled Quarantine Diaries. Institutions, such as the University of Sussex and the Open University, have made a public plea for the documented thoughts of the nation, in the form of diary entries, to conduct their research and create a ‘weather map’ of the public’s feelings. The power in this ‘living history’ is a real-time recording, not of the government’s actions or the national state of affairs, but the lives of the people. As demonstrated through Anne Frank during WWII; or Samuel Pepys during the reign of Charles II; or even Pliny who documented the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, the scope of power for a diary is vast. If everyone documented their thoughts, it would be a private account that, if all were amassed, would constitute a collection of the thoughts of a nation during this time.

As well as being a mirror to the writer, diaries have often reflected the world order at the time of writing. Therefore, diaries or journals or even video recordings can act cohesively between the lives of so many, all so different right now. The increase in a want of something tangible, when the majority of our days are now spent looking at a computer screen, would suggest that the act of putting pen to paper is not outdated: but what are diaries now?

They could be seen as an outdated method of capturing all the things that a phone, a Tweet, or a camera can so easily define. But psychologists, including Dr Liebermann of UCLA, suggest that documenting thoughts is essentially a workout for the mind, the benefits of which are only felt after continuous practice, whether that be someone who writes a line a day, a paragraph a week, or is on their third notebook since quarantine began, it doesn’t matter.

The toll on many people’s mental health during this period is routinely mentioned, as a global disaster is sure to affect everyone, whether the disease has harmed them first hand, or not. We may become desensitised to figures on the news, or images of mask-clad shoppers but journaling these thoughts not only helps us to document what we already think and feel, but can also incite thoughts we never knew we had. Verbalising a thought could help bring some form of meaning back into the separate news stories and personal lives we read and lead.

In a world where we can feel powerless as the Government tries to legislate our every move, and even follow us when we do, there is autonomy to be found in choosing words and crafting a sentence, whether anyone else ever reads it or not. This has long been an attraction of diary writing and it continues now, as what has ensured the survival of ‘diary-writing’, or thought documentation in any form, is the adaptability of the medium to our current ways of expression. A diary can essentially be anything we want it to be, as we are the ones in charge.

Finally, whether we look back on the things we wrote in fifty years, or burn the pages directly after writing, the act of documenting thoughts in the first place is a reminder, whether for Anne Frank whilst hiding from the Nazis, or for us whilst sheltering from a disease, that we are alive. Oscar Wilde declared: ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ So, whilst what we write about may not be ‘sensational’ and whilst we will not be reading it on the train, diary-writing can be distilled to an activity for the self, with complete control over what we write and what we do with it afterwards.