From an array of sectors and institutions going remote, to entire countries enforcing strict stay-at-home orders worldwide, it appears as though the coronavirus pandemic has, by and large, completely reshaped society’s energy consumption. According to the International Energy Agency, global greenhouse gas emissions will fall nearly eight percent this year, the largest drop recorded in modern history. The significance of this figure, however, goes beyond the observation of a temporary halt to the population’s general behavioral patterns. Examining governmental responses to the free fall of power usage provides us with a glimpse into how the energy trade-offs of today could pave the way into the transition to a greener future tomorrow.
Source: 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
By Alisha Saxena Contributing Writer
In the midst of extensive debates on how to actualize the power of international human rights law in the global community, two factions of thought have emerged: universalism and relativism. They differ not only in their definition of human rights, but also in their methodology to develop and execute human rights policies. As indicated in its name, universalism stresses that human rights are universal, in that they can and should apply to every individual in the world regardless of religious, cultural, or other differences; thus, its proponents believe in the power of international human rights legislation.
A Bolivian woman in La Paz covers her face with a mask to protect against COVID-19. Credits: Abad Miranda
By Olivia Bryan Staff Writer
It seems that there isn’t anything new to be said that hasn’t been said already regarding COVID-19. Unprecedented. Once in a lifetime. Unforgettable. Most mainstream media coverage of the pandemic remains fixed on East Asia, Europe, and North America, the three geographical areas that have been hit the hardest. But viruses know no borders, and many smaller, poorer countries are being largely omitted from the coronavirus media narrative. These countries are often the ones most vulnerable to the virus’s externalities: lacking proper medical supplies, social welfare programs, and efficient governance to aid citizens’ health and well-being.
Sofia Meador Sauto, a native of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and fellow Political Science colleague of mine at UC San Diego, returned to her hometown in late March, and has witnessed firsthand the harsh socio-economic impact of the virus on an already struggling country. Just before she departed for home, I recalled her account of a Bolivian news story on the first coronavirus patient in Bolivia: a woman returning from Italy who was transported to the hospital with a jacket over her head to prevent the spread of the virus. Medical personnel had nothing else with which to cover her face.
Sofia’s mother owns two bakeries in Santa Cruz, one of which has already had to shut its doors permanently due to loss of revenue from the virus. “The economic situation for private enterprises is not good to begin with,” Sofia articulates. Even Panaderia Victoria, her mother’s second bakery which she co-owns with other family members, is experiencing harsh losses. “It’s not the same,” Sofia laments. “We’re not making the same earnings as we would on a normal day.” The employees of the closing bakery, Panificación del Oriente, will still receive severance pay for three months after their release, but beyond that there are little social welfare policies in Bolivia to protect them.
“And for the Amazon fires, I don’t think it affected private enterprise, but it took a toll out of the government’s funds”. The Bolivian government shelled out a mere 20 million USD to fight the fires; however, almost 50% of Bolivia’s gross domestic product comes from services, which are now heavily restricted by the virus. International flights have been grounded indefinitely, and people are allowed outside only on certain days between certain times; not exactly an environment conducive to vacationers.
The case of Bolivia illustrates the especially all-encompassing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on a developing nation. In the United States, many of us take for granted our social welfare programs such as unemployment insurance, or the fact that if we go to a hospital, there will be a doctor present there to treat us. Although the United States certainly has many issues with its social welfare programs, they are nevertheless there. The virus has further exacerbated the staunch discrepancy between the developed and underdeveloped world. In dozens of countries like Bolivia, there is no unemployment check in the mail, or a Paycheck Protection Program to apply for, something that many Western readers should be mindful of as we grieve over lost haircuts and manicures.