Monitor Daily Podcast

June 24, 2020
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Life on … where?

The search for life elsewhere in the solar system has officially gotten weird. Until this week, no one dared utter the phrase “life on Pluto” because, well, that would just be plain nuts. A surface temperature of minus 380 degrees Fahrenheit on a world 40 times farther away from the sun than Earth doesn’t exactly conjure images of E.T.

Yet potential life on Pluto is exactly the implication of a new study this week: Pluto could very well have an underground ocean.  

Exploration of the outer solar system has revealed marvels: oceans and rivers and rainstorms of liquid methane on Saturn’s moon Titan and the surprisingly haunting landscape of Pluto itself. But perhaps most interesting has been the discovery of subsurface oceans, first on Jupiter’s moon Europa, then on Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus. Like a kid running through a summer sprinkler, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft even flew through the geysers that erupt from Enceladus.

We don’t know the conditions for organic life beyond Earth, because we haven’t found any yet. But liquid water is thought to be essential. And the discovery of it in places never imagined, says Alan Stern, head of NASA’s 2015 mission to Pluto, is “a fundamental sea change in the way we view the solar system.” Pun probably intended. 

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A deeper look

Rising inequality in a crisis: The view from Baltimore

The downturn has hit Black communities disproportionately hard. Those affected see the pandemic worsening a chronic lack of opportunity, but cities like Baltimore are taking steps to help. 

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
"I have dynamic, excellent children" coming to learn in programs at the farm. "We want to prepare children to lead organizations," to promote "Black excellence," says Richard Francis, who goes by the name Farmer Chippy and promotes urban farming on vacant lots in Baltimore.

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The coronavirus lockdowns have magnified inequalities in U.S. society – with higher unemployment rates among women, young workers, and those without a college degree. The gap looms especially large along racial lines, a fact now amplified by nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Even before the pandemic-related spike in joblessness, the average Black household had just one-tenth the wealth of the average white household, according to Federal Reserve data. 

“The legacy of slavery has not been resolved,” says economist Lisa Cook at Michigan State University. Addressing racial and other inequalities is vital, she says, to fulfill the goal of shared prosperity and a strong overall economy. 

Ideas for new federal action are surfacing, such as for a federal jobs guarantee or “baby bonds” that young people could use for college or other goals as they enter adulthood. 

In Baltimore, people like George Mitchell are taking local action. Running a food bank that’s now busier than ever, as well as jobs-skill programs, Mr. Mitchell is keenly aware of both the promise and the challenges in his community. “All we got to do is change one block at a time,” he says. But “we’re running out of time.” 

Rising inequality in a crisis: The view from Baltimore


George Mitchell holds up a megaphone to amplify his words to the crowd waiting for boxes of free food. “If you can’t use it, don’t take it,” Mr. Mitchell says. Donations are gratefully accepted, but “if you don’t want to pay, that’s OK.”

The lines for this twice-weekly event in Baltimore have grown significantly longer since the coronavirus shuttered major segments of the economy and sidelined millions of workers.  

On this recent Friday, one of the people lined up outside the red-brick former school is Cassandra Branch, who lost her job as a security worker at M&T Bank Stadium. Another is Elizabeth Rice, an aspiring young educator whose school employment dried up. A retail opportunity also fell through, and she hasn’t been able to access unemployment benefits. 

And there’s Daniel, who asked that his last name not be used. He says he’s struggling to support his wife and two children with now-rarer home-improvement gigs. 

“It’s just been too hard,” he says of the past several months.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
George Mitchell, head of the Langston Hughes Community, Business and Resource Center, gives instructions to people standing in line to receive free food in Baltimore. The center offers job skills classes and other services to local residents, but many of the activities were shut down during the coronavirus.

Economic recessions tend to be especially rough on some of the very Americans who have few resources to begin with: people who are young, work in low-wage jobs, or have less education. And in a nation where African Americans have experienced deep and persistent inequalities from the era of slavery forward, times of economic hardship have historically expanded existing gaps.

The coronavirus downturn looks to be following that same pattern, and perhaps even amplifying it – in the process expanding already deep fault lines in a country that is now in the news more for social unrest than for being a model of shared prosperity. 

During the pandemic, while many office-style jobs have been able to be done from home, many lower-paid jobs, such as those at restaurants and football stadiums, have not. The road to recovering those jobs may be slow as the economy gradually reopens. Meanwhile, as of early June, death rates attributed to COVID-19 have been more than twice as high for African Americans as for white Americans.

And now all this is being processed by many citizens through a different lens – one of deep indignation over a fatal instance of police brutality against George Floyd in Minneapolis. While policing and criminal justice issues are the main fuel behind the nationwide protests, vast racial gaps in incomes and opportunities are an inextricable part of the context. 

“Now is the time to ask the tough questions. ... There are real windows for a radical significant policy change that open infrequently in the course of history, at least in this country,” says Kenan Fikri, research director at the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank that tracks inequality and focuses on boosting economic growth. 

“And I believe that we’re facing one right now.” 

Mr. Mitchell, megaphone in hand, is doing his part to lift long-standing burdens. In this largely African American part of Baltimore, he’s working to shift the dynamics that have left so many in his community with little sense of hope or progress.

“Everybody ain’t doing it. But he’s doing it,” says Jeanette Snowden, who is also waiting for her number to be called to fill up a box of food. “This is definitely a five-star light, not only for this community but for people who come from other communities.”

Amid a deep economic downturn and a national election year, the United States is searching for economic hope. President Donald Trump has cut taxes, sought to use trade policy to revive U.S. manufacturing jobs, and this year supported pandemic relief for affected workers and businesses. Democrats are proposing even bigger emergency aid and are abuzz with long-term ideas to narrow the income divide, ranging from a wealth tax to a universal basic income and other bulwarks against poverty. 

But on the ground here in a city that is home to some of this nation’s most distressed African American neighborhoods, many residents don’t see much point in waiting for a rescue from on high. That doesn’t mean help would be unwelcome. It’s just that hopes have been raised and dashed many times before. 

“This virus has magnified the extreme disparities that exist, especially in our most impoverished neighborhoods,” Sharon Green Middleton, the City Council member for this part of Baltimore, said at a recent council meeting.

The virus is, in fact, giving fresh salience to an appeal made by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, just before his assassination prompted demonstrations of outrage and protest in Black communities nationwide.

“One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive,” Dr. King said. Today’s equivalent might be the grocery and delivery workers who are deemed essential and keeping the nation fed and supplied, generally at low wages and sometimes with few benefits or protections against the virus.

“The person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity,” Dr. King said as he lent his voice to the cause of striking Black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, at the time.

Now, as then, for many people in hard economic circumstances the most visible path upward is local action. It’s efforts like those of Mr. Mitchell and his band of more than 70 fellow volunteers.

Four years ago, after an unsuccessful fight to keep Langston Hughes Elementary School from closing, Mr. Mitchell led a campaign to repurpose the building. Once a coordinator for after-school activities, he now heads the renamed facility – the Langston Hughes Community, Business and Resource Center.

It, too, has been adversely affected by COVID-19. Demand at the center’s food pantry is up, but various job skills classes are on hold (except for ones on nursing). In normal times, the center hosts everything from free hot meals to financial literacy training, Spanish classes, and “Black business Fridays.” 

For Mr. Mitchell, it all fits together. When people learn life skills from balancing a checkbook to cooking a meal, it’s a step toward freedom from financial anxiety or debt. And by contrast, when worries about money or a contagious disease combine with not having enough to eat, “it provides a situation where it is hopeless.”

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
April Whitehead bags strawberries for distribution at the Langston Hughes Community, Business and Resource Center in Baltimore.

So every box of food counts.

“All we got to do is change one block at a time. It’s working, man,” Mr. Mitchell says.  

But he’s far from naive about the magnitude of the challenge. “We’re running out of time.” 

Whether complacency is close to his home or in affluent communities far away, “the culture has to change,” he says. “Somebody is making money off of our misery. ... How much money should you make off of people who are poor?”

“Things could be so different”

A couple of miles from the Langston Hughes center, Dion Thompson is wielding a video camera, documenting another local effort to give food to those in need. 

He’s now jobless himself. The payment-processing firm he worked for suddenly found itself with fewer businesses that he could pitch as a telemarketing specialist. Mr. Thompson, who had been making $17 an hour, hopes it won’t be long before he can be rehired. 

But what he really wants is something longer term, a career – and to put a criminal record behind him. The downturn is making that harder. 

But like Mr. Mitchell, he’s also thinking about how to build up his community. This is the neighborhood that was devastated five years ago by protests after local resident Freddie Gray died of a spinal injury incurred during a police arrest. Promises of investment and jobs have largely bypassed the neighborhood for years. 

Mr. Thompson would like to create a studio where people can perform rap or spoken-word poetry.

“I’m trying to change,” he says, and trying to help other young people avoid trouble in a city known for a high murder rate, and also for its packs of “squeegee boys” who seek cash from passing drivers in exchange for a window wash.

“Things could be so different,” Mr. Thompson says. “We should not be looking at skin. We should be looking at morals.”

He’s not seeking cash handouts. But he wonders why more money isn’t spent improving schools. He questions why a billionaire can send an automobile into outer space and yet there’s “not enough money to give to the community.”

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
"Things could be so different. We should not be looking at skin. We should be looking at morals," says Dion Thompson, who was laid off as a telemarketing specialist when the pandemic hit and would like to open a studio where people in Baltimore can perform rap music.

The pandemic’s effects are also being felt, of course, in places that aren’t known as impoverished. But if the effects are widespread, the disparities are also very real. Even in good times, African Americans face delays in catching an updraft. Yet the long economic expansion that began in 2009 had brought some gains, with Black unemployment hitting a record low 5.4% last August.

Now the officially reported unemployment rate for white Americans has surged from 3.1% in February to 12.4% in May, according to Labor Department estimates. But unemployment for Black Americans has jumped from 5.8% to 16.8% in that same time. For Latino and Hispanic Americans, the rate went from 4.4% to 17.6%. 

Pandemic-related gaps are also significant based on age, gender, and education, with higher joblessness among women, young workers, and those without a college degree. 

All this comes after several decades of generally widening inequality between those at the top of the earnings scale and the rest of Americans. From 1979 to 2015, household income for the top 1% of earners grew five times faster (a total gain of 229%) than for the bottom 90% (with gains of 46%). And with costs for education and health care rising faster than wages, legions in middle or lower tiers have seen stagnation rather than meaningful gains in living standards.

As revealed in Baltimore or virtually any other U.S. city, the gaps are starkly geographic. In the new millennium, the gains of economic growth have increasingly been concentrated in “superstar cities” and college towns, while the overall number of counties or ZIP code areas in economic distress has actually been rising, according to Economic Innovation Group data.

With the coronavirus, “we see that distressed people and places are staring down a triple whammy,” says Mr. Fikri, the researcher. He refers to higher rates of poor health, weaker health care infrastructure, and now the risk that a depressed job market could persist “for a very long time.” 

While places like West Baltimore are vastly different from struggling rural areas in Kentucky or New Mexico, their challenges can have some similar roots: a dearth of jobs or investment, education gaps, health burdens including drug addiction, and challenges maintaining strong community bonds.

From the urban Northeast to the rural South and beyond, the long-standing reach of racial discrimination adds its own weight.

“The legacy of slavery has not been resolved,” says economist Lisa Cook at Michigan State University in East Lansing. She sees this as the greatest among “a whole lot of other challenges” tied to economic inequality.

She calls for blue-sky thinking reminiscent of the New Deal. Fellow Black scholars, she notes, are proposing measures such as a federal jobs guarantee or “baby bonds” that create a nest egg for young people to use for college or other goals as they enter adulthood. 

Many conservatives argue that policies aimed at redistribution could lead the nation into a future of higher taxes or reduced overall prosperity. The counterargument is that greater equity can enhance economic growth by broadening markets and talent pools. After all, recent years of high inequality – with chief executive salaries up 940% since 1978 – have coincided with a decrease in, rather than a blossoming of, new-business formation.  

“We’re missing out on higher living standards if we’re not incorporating more women and African Americans into the process,” says Dr. Cook. And it has wider political implications, she adds. “If people don’t believe that they are participating in the shared prosperity of the country, they won’t believe in the system and they won’t believe in the social contract.”

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Salim Williams prepares to livestream a radio show, “The Artist Lounge,” at the Langston Hughes center.

Nourishing Black excellence

Here on the streets of West Baltimore, there’s no doubt about whether the community needs a boost. Richard Francis, an immigrant from Trinidad who goes by the name Farmer Chippy, is trying to do it from the ground up. 

Quite literally. 

Fresh-grown food, after all, isn’t just a welcome form of emergency assistance during the pandemic. It’s also something residents worried about long before. Many residents live in “food deserts” – places without supermarkets let alone farm stands.

“Grow more food!” Farmer Chippy says, as he walks among rows of young corn plants, kale, and other vegetables in formerly vacant lots along Park Heights Avenue. “We must be respected for the talents that exist in our community. We must manage our own resources.”

The vision is one of empowerment for the community; partnering with local groups, he tries to ignite interest in urban farming in young and old alike. Start these steps toward better health and food security, and he says a stronger neighborhood (he calls it an “agrihood”) will follow.

It’s not just that he’s stopped waiting for policymakers to help what he says is “the greatest city in America.” He is actively rejecting an economic system that he says has too long exploited Black workers. 

“I have dynamic, excellent children” coming to learn in programs at the farm, he says. “We want to prepare children to lead organizations,” to promote “Black excellence.”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, some of the young people attracted by that vision are helping out at the farm.

“The whole system needs to be remodeled,” says Kamryn Washington, a political science major at Morgan State University, not far up the road. “This is America,” she explains. “You should be helping out everybody.”

Bria Morton-Lane, a biology major at Howard University in Washington, D.C., similarly wants to see new generations of young people growing up nourished, not just with food but with education. 

“It’s not about moving away and making a better life for yourself. I want to make a better life for this community,” the lifelong Baltimore resident says, as she adds handfuls of topsoil to help kale plants thrive.

This is just one upstart project, but it’s not alone in seeing food as a building block toward wider progress. At the storefront of BeMore Green, where Mr. Thompson was doing his videography, the boxes of fresh produce bring smiles to grateful recipients – some of whom bite into crunchy apples. 

One of the people growing and delivering the food, Dominic Nell, sees his work as blending physical and mental health in an area that needs more of both. “[We’ve been] left out of the wealth conversation,” he says. So instead of “40 acres and a mule” – the promise that formerly enslaved people hoped would come to fruition after the Civil War – he asks for “40 vacants and some tools,” referring to vacant lots.

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
JR finishes detailing a car on a street in Baltimore. He had planned to open a store, JR’s Penny Mart, on the same corner in March, but has been unable to because of the pandemic.

 “We’ve got to love each other a little more.”

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham is a community leader just a few blocks away – a longtime advocate of voting, of civil rights, and of taking kids to Orioles baseball games. 

As he looks back to the tumultuous year of 1968, when he graduated from high school as unrest flared over the assassination of Dr. King, he says he sees some progress for Black Americans. His view is born out by evidence like rising incomes and education levels since then, and the election of a Black president in 2008.

But Mr. Cheatham also sees big gaps left to bridge, at a time when wealth of the average Black household is one-tenth that of white counterparts. In his neighborhood, the disparity is even greater than that. 

“We don’t have a health clinic,” Mr. Cheatham says. “No laundromat. No bank.” Yes, no supermarket either. And with all this, he says, hope in some corners of his neighborhood has “almost disappeared.”

It’s possible that the exigencies of the current moment – an election-year economic crisis coupled with national outrage over racial injustice – will spur a push for new policies to address economic inequalities as well as police misconduct.

It’s notable that many white Americans are marching along with African Americans against racial injustice. And, separate from the question of enduring racism, political pressure in recent years has resulted in some state-level policies to support working-class Americans, such as a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, and higher taxes on rich people to help pay for such efforts.

People like Mr. Cheatham say local actions must also play a key role in moving distressed communities forward. When he sees vacant lots, his first thought is not of farms but of parks. He has already carved out one in his Easterwood neighborhood, where people can enjoy picnics and rosebushes. And now a more ambitious project – a skateboard park – is on the way.

“Baltimore is a city that’s not going to let itself be defined by its past,” says Stephanie Murdock, another community leader who’s helping to make it happen. She is white. Mr. Cheatham is Black. But they speak of each other as “brother” and “sister” in this effort to bring positivity, health, and excitement to young people. 

America more broadly may need some of the same determination. Economic inequality rarely shows up in polls as a top voter priority. But that’s a bit misleading. The American penchant for economic freedom is matched by deep concerns over economic security. And 79% of U.S. adults called inequality a “top” or “important” priority in a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.  

Even the long-stodgy U.S. Federal Reserve system, charged mainly with maintaining a stable banking network, now has a regional institute focused on inequality.

Some wonder if America can afford to address the rising income gap. Others wonder if this rich but highly stratified nation can afford not to. The debate will surely be part of this fall’s presidential race. 

Kriston Jae Bethel/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Ella Scovens, chaplain for a child care program at the center, greets George Mitchell as he places a hand on her shoulder.

Back at the Langston Hughes center, George Mitchell flips some switches in a modest studio to go on air with his daily call-in show on local radio. On this day he’s partly soul-searching about how another African American man with his same first name (George Floyd) died after a police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

“Is that what my life is worth? A counterfeit $20 bill?” he asks, referring to the suspected crime for which Mr. Floyd was being arrested. “They want to label us: stupid, drug addicts ... lazy,” Mr. Mitchell says.  

Even as he appeals for greater justice, he goads his listeners to lift their own lives higher through compassion and grit. “Take care of your kids. Respect Black women.”

Above all, he says, it’s time for a society with more love. Love among Black Americans themselves. Love that can span across racial boundaries. “Because I’m pro-Black, I’m not anti anything,” he says. “We’ve got to love each other a little more.”

Lockdown lessons offer hope for climate change activists

The pandemic has made clear we will change our lifestyles in an emergency. For many in Europe, that realization offers hope for climate change.

Matt Dunham/AP
A young activist holds a sign that reads "you can't outsmart the planet" as she participates in a school strike climate protest in Bristol, England, Feb. 28, 2020.

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Six months ago, climate change was a top global priority. And then COVID-19 happened. But although the pandemic has eclipsed global warming, the habits we have adopted during lockdown could help deal with the carbon crisis too.

That is the hope of the Climate Assembly, a citizens’ panel appointed by the U.K. Parliament to come up with ways to meet the government’s target of making Britain carbon neutral by 2050. Its report this week urged the authorities to ensure that their post-coronavirus economic recovery plan matches the zero emissions goal.

It also suggests – as does a similar French citizens’ convention that also reported this week – that lockdowns could have a positive legacy if they have taught us to work at home sometimes rather than drive to work, or to think three times before taking a plane.

Most of the actions needed to get to net-zero emissions will mean lifestyle changes. In opinion polls, people are generally reluctant to embrace them. But in real life, COVID-19 lockdowns have revealed that in a national emergency, citizens are indeed ready to make abrupt lifestyle changes.

That could be good news for the world’s climate.

Lockdown lessons offer hope for climate change activists


Could there be a silver lining for climate change in the COVID-19 pandemic? Could the crisis have shaken people out of their complacency, and shown how radically we are ready to change our lifestyles when we know there is an emergency?

That is the hope expressed this week in a report by Climate Assembly UK, a citizens’ panel set up by Parliament in January to ponder and propose how the United Kingdom can reach its official goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

“There was a real recognition of the hard circumstances” caused by the pandemic, Jim Watson, an academic who advised the panel on energy policy, told a press briefing at the report’s release. “But they also noted the possibilities for change.” 

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the leaders of six parliamentary committees that set up the assembly noted the public’s willingness to heed government advice and act collectively to fight a deadly virus. “We believe that a similar approach, based on securing public support for ambitious policies through open dialogue around the science, is a sound basis for the net zero journey,” they wrote. 

The assembly report adds to a growing chorus of voices in Britain urging the government to pave a green path to economic recovery, while also encouraging people to keep some of the habits they developed during lockdowns.

“With planning and a bit of structure we can tackle both climate and COVID. We shouldn’t go back to where we were before,” said one assembly member quoted in the report issued Monday. 

That vexed question of how to align pandemic-era economics and climate goals resonates beyond the U.K. In recent months, global emissions of greenhouse gases have fallen so sharply that scientists predict a decline this year of around 8%, the biggest since World War II.

But shutting down the world economy – which may be necessary to cope with a health crisis – is not a sustainable path to a low-carbon world, says Gernot Wagner, a professor of environmental studies at New York University. “You don’t get to zero by locking yourself in and not going out,” he says. 

And as economies get back into gear, carbon emissions are likely to resume their upward trajectory, even as pernicious warming effects ripple from Australia to the Arctic. 

Make it green

The U.K. assembly’s final report is due in September; Monday’s interim report focused on COVID-19’s effects on their deliberations. Nearly all the members, who were chosen to reflect a demographic balance, as well as a wide range of public views on climate change, agreed that employers should “take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net zero,” while 79% agreed that the U.K.’s economic stimulus package should be designed to meet the same goal. 

The U.K. report came one day after France’s national climate convention issued its recommendations for how France can build a low-carbon economy. The representative panel of 150 citizens presented a wide range of proposals aimed at cutting emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with a 1990 baseline. 

They ranged from the largely theoretical – calling for a referendum on whether to enshrine the fight against climate change in the French constitution – to the day-to-day practical. Proposals included, among many other things, lower speed limits on freeways, requiring shops to turn off their lights at night, and that by 2023 all manufactured goods sold in France should be repairable.

As in the U.K., some of their suggestions – a ban on domestic flights on routes served by low-carbon road and rail links, and allowing white-collar workers and civil servants to work from home one day a week – have been given greater weight by the pandemic. 

French Ecology Minister Élisabeth Borne welcomed the convention’s “ambition,” promising that its work would be “at the heart” of President Emmanuel Macron’s post-pandemic reconstruction plan. 

“Our timing is good, after the COVID crisis,” Convention member Sylvain Burquier told the daily Le Monde. “From now on we have the strength and the arguments to explain to the French that we should no longer separate the economy from ecology.”

Both panels are part of a growing experiment around the world with models of direct democracy that offer a way to sound out voters. By engaging representative citizens in structured debate, conveners seek to guide them toward common ground on complex topics that are often deadlocked in conventional politics. 

Tolga Akmen/AP
Mark Carney, the outgoing Bank of England governor and COP26 finance adviser to Britain's prime minister, addresses the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 at Guildhall in London, Feb. 27, 2020.

We’ll change if we have to

Part of that work, says Lorraine Whitmarsh, a climate researcher who was an expert lead at the Climate Assembly UK, is making policy ideas concrete so that participants see what difference they would really make to their own lives.

“The majority of things that we need to get to net zero (emissions) have behavior or lifestyle implications,” says Professor Whitmarsh, who directs the center for climate change and social transformations at Cardiff University.

In most polling on climate policy, she adds, “anything that involves changing behavior tends to be less popular than a technological fix.”

The COVID-19 lockdown, though, showed that in a national emergency people are capable of making abrupt lifestyle changes such as working more from home and fewer vacations that may actually match their aspirations for cleaner air and fewer cars, and assembly members embraced those changes.

“They really did buy into the need to reach net zero, even in the face of COVID,” Professor Whitmarsh says. 

So did the CEO’s of 200 top U.K. companies, who earlier this month wrote an open letter calling on Mr. Johnson to ensure that his post-lockdown recovery package, currently in the works, take advantage of the changes that the coronavirus has wrought.

“The current crisis, in moving us all away from business as usual, has already created shifts in how we operate, and we believe we must use the recovery to accelerate the transition to net zero,” the letter said.

The pandemic has also given the public a greater respect for and understanding of the scientific modeling of threats and of how our actions can shape outcomes, says Ajay Gambhir, an economist and climate researcher at Imperial College London. “There’s more of an appetite for facts and figures, and the need for scientific models to see what the possible futures are,” he says.  

“I think that gives the climate change scientific community an opportunity” to build on that acceptance, he says. 

Climate scientists say the lifestyle changes forced by lockdowns around the world – no travel, eating in, working remotely, canceled events, idled factories – led to cuts in global emissions that were roughly in line with what is needed every year over the next decade to keep average temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. 

But unless we lock down again, most of those emissions will eventually snap back, says Mr. Wagner of NYU, without a sustained effort to de-carbonize economic activity and phase out fossil fuels. 

“What this shows is the limits of individual behavioral change,” he says. Going carbon neutral “takes massive policy changes. It takes collective changes.” 

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.


Tracing global connections

A COVID-19 resurgence and the trust factor

COVID-19 is on the rise in countries that have reopened their economies. For democracies, trust could play a central role in making any reimposed restrictions stick.

Amir Cohen/Reuters
People in Tel Aviv, Israel, take part in a silent disco event wearing headphones and dancing on the pavement on June 4, 2020. Some businesses have reopened under a host of new rules, following weeks of shutdown due to COVID-19.

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As governments worldwide open up their economies and loosen restrictions on daily life, the number of new COVID-19 cases is rising.

The authorities are counting on one of two factors to keep the rise under control: trust or fear. Some democracies, whose leaders have built up a cushion of public trust, can hope with some confidence that people will accept reimposed restrictions. Authoritarian governments know citizens fear the consequences of disobedience. What about democratic leaders who don’t enjoy much public trust?

On one end of the spectrum, New Zealand’s premier, Jacinda Ardern, won enough confidence from her handling of the first COVID wave not to have suffered much from its reappearance after the country was declared virus-free.

At the other end, the Chinese government knows that it can enforce hermetic lockdowns on whole neighborhoods of the capital, now that the virus has sprung up again only days after Beijing was declared free of COVID.

In between, in countries such as the United States and Britain, where trust has declined, a big question is looming. If the authorities feel the need to reimpose lockdowns, can they make them stick?

A COVID-19 resurgence and the trust factor


In countries worldwide that are reopening badly stricken economies, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased, making what some politicians have called a choice between “lives and livelihoods.”

But how successfully – how safely – they’re able to deal with new surges is likely to hinge on two other factors: trust and fear. Trust, meaning popular trust in government. And fear? In authoritarian states, fear of the consequences of not doing what you’re told; in democracies, fear of the virus itself.

Those countries relying on a strong bond of trust, or on pure fear of the authorities, appear best placed to implement the test tracking, physical distancing and mask-wearing, and new restrictions needed to forestall a new outbreak. Two examples of very different nations that had declared themselves virus-free but where new cases have appeared: authoritarian China and the island democracy of New Zealand.

The picture is murkier for other countries, including a number hit hard by COVID-19: Britain, for instance, or some areas of the United States.

Even in countries that turned back or largely escaped a first COVID outbreak, the virus still poses a threat. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last week that “countries are understandably eager to open up. ... But the virus is still spreading fast.”

Honesty is the best policy

Aside from New Zealand and China, other countries that controlled earlier COVID outbreaks well and have been reopening – like South Korea, Israel, and Portugal – have seen an uptick in new COVID cases in recent days.

Their governments’ hope is that the danger can be contained through contact-tracing, testing, and a reemphasis on health precautions. The stock of public trust they built up through their initial response might also stand them in good stead if a reimposition of wider restrictions proves necessary.

That certainly seems likely in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won international plaudits for her early, effective response to the pandemic. She imposed a lockdown in March, when barely 200 cases of COVID-19 had been detected. By the time she declared the economy reopened this month, there had been only around 1,100 cases, and 22 lives lost.

But one aspect of the economic reopening was reopening New Zealand’s borders. In recent days, due to lapses and loopholes in the system of quarantine, testing, and tracking, COVID cases reappeared. Her response drew on the same strengths that earned her government-wide support in the shutdown. She was clear and transparent, not just about what went wrong, but in her frustration. She closed the loopholes and made sure precautions would be followed to the letter. So far, there’s been no sign of significant popular impatience over the lapses, almost certainly because Ms. Ardern could rely on the trust amassed since the initial outbreak.

In China, where the COVID response has relied on the tools of authoritarian control, a new outbreak has hit the capital, Beijing, days after the city was declared virus-free. Individual apartment blocks and whole neighborhoods have been placed under varying degrees of lockdown. Thousands of people in affected areas have been directed to testing sites. While the authorities are hoping these measures prevent any wider spread, there is little doubt they will – and can – move to wider lockdowns if necessary.

Will people do what they are told?

For a number of other countries with high numbers of COVID cases, however – democracies that lack both China’s tools for social control and a New Zealand-like “trust cushion” – the next few months could be challenging.

In the United States, the picture is complex. There’s little trust in the federal government’s response to the pandemic. President Donald Trump has played down its significance, even as infection rates in a number of states keep rising. But he has left the main response to state and local governments. Popular support for them varies. It’s a commodity that, like much else in the U.S., has been overshadowed by partisan divisions and the approach of elections in November. This could give greater weight to the other factor: individuals’ fear of the effects of the virus.

Yet in countries where the main responsibility lies with national government, the picture is clearer, and potentially worrying.

Britain is a prime example. The initial government response was halting and unevenly effective. Though case numbers have now been coming down, there have been more than 300,000 confirmed. More than 40,000 people have died – about twice as many as would have died if the government had locked down the country just a week earlier, according to one British health expert earlier this month.

The overall response has dealt a serious knock to trust in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

Now, new public-health guidelines have been announced with the aim of preventing any large-scale COVID surge as the economy reopens in the coming days, and there must be some question whether they’ll be fully followed.

Yet the real question will be what happens if governments feel the need to reimpose a full-scale lockdown. In democracies at least, could that be done – could it work – without a bedrock of popular trust?

‘Immunity passports’ could help against pandemic – or harm society

Survivors of the coronavirus should be immune, scientists say. Some have proposed capitalizing on that immunity – but that could open an ethical quagmire.


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If COVID-19 behaves like other diseases, at least some portion of those who have fought it off should now have an immunity against contracting it again. Which means there should be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who ought to be capable of returning to normal life without putting themselves or others at risk.

Medical researchers and tech companies propose taking advantage of that population, by granting them “immunity passports” which would allow them to bypass restrictions. But ethicists warn that granting special status to those who are immune opens up moral questions about obligations that might follow.

“I shouldn’t have to stay in my home and socially distance and not go to my office if I’m immune from infection. That doesn’t make any sense,” says Jeffrey Kahn of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. But “it’s not just freedom but rather what responsibilities might be imposed on the individual. ... An employer could say, well you’re immune, so now you should work in this area that you didn’t before because we need people in this essential area and you are immune and safe.”

‘Immunity passports’ could help against pandemic – or harm society

Francisco Seco/AP
Passengers like these, at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels on June 15, 2020, could enjoy an easier trip if proposals to implement an "immunity passport" system are realized. But ethicists warn that the system could bring additional burdens along with its utility.

Europe, like many places around the world, is in the process of reopening after several months of lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. But even if that reopening goes well, society will not return to the way it was. The threat of a new outbreak persists – as shown by Germany’s recent flare-ups – meaning that countries will have to operate under strict preventive measures.

But some argue that needn’t be true for everyone.

If COVID-19 behaves like other diseases, at least some portion of those who have fought it off should now have an immunity against contracting it again, they point out. Which means there should be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who ought to be capable of returning to normal life without putting themselves or others at risk.

Medical researchers and tech companies propose taking advantage of that population, by identifying them and granting them special privilege in the form of “immunity passports” – digital or physical documents that would be issued to those who successfully recovered. Those so equipped could bypass restrictions imposed on others still at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, enabling them to help restart the economy and society safely.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

In the absence of a vaccine – and assuming that there is long-lasting immunity from the virus – advocates argue that immunity status could influence the allocation of human resources in pandemic response efforts and help hard-hit communities. While no silver bullet, such a solution, which dodges draconian lockdowns and the devastating toll these take on the economy and mental health, appeals to many.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a one-size-fits-all approach if there are specific characteristics of individuals that matter for what kinds of precautions they should take,” says Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. “I shouldn’t have to stay in my home and socially distance and not go to my office if I’m immune from infection. That doesn’t make any sense.”

But even if surviving COVID-19 confers some kind of immunity – a relatively reasonable assumption – experts say that significant scientific and logistical challenges must be overcome before passports are seriously considered. And on the ethical front, a scenario where most of the population lacks immunity raises questions on how and whether to accommodate – or burden – the immune.

“It’s not just freedom but rather what responsibilities might be imposed on the individual,” notes Dr. Kahn. “So an employer could say, well you’re immune, so now you should work in this area that you didn’t before because we need people in this essential area and you are immune and safe.”

A tool for safely rallying volunteers?

Governments around the world, including Chile, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom, are considering the ethical and practical implications of immunity passports. Banking on a future where digital immunity certificates are accepted, tech companies are crafting cutting-edge solutions. These range from phone apps to portable devises based on QR codes, blockchain technology, and facial recognition.

But uncertainty over the presence and duration of immunity, unreliable testing, and the generally low prevalence of the virus limit their potential. The World Health Organization has cautioned against immunity passport initiatives, stating there is no proven link between recovery from the disease and immunity. And science aside, serious questions remain over who would have the authority to issue such health passports and how they would be certified and standardized to allow for their international application.

Much depends on what governments are trying to achieve with their public health strategy. “Immunity passports should be stopgap measures until a vaccine is developed,” says Teck Chuan Voo of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore. “You should not think of them as a permanent solution.”

Immunity passports, he points out, could be used quite narrowly. They could be used to mobilize volunteers who are immune to COVID-19 to help or test people in elderly homes or migrant communities that have been seriously afflicted by the virus. Immunity status could shape an individual’s decision to wear masks, or help determine who can access education facilities and work places without putting others in danger. The risk is such solutions become permanent if no vaccine is developed. They could create stigma or a negative incentive to contract the disease.

A major widely shared concern for ethicists is the prospect of creating a two-tier system of society where key rights, and on the flip side responsibilities, are determined by immunity status. Much depends on how many people in the population actually have antibodies that could be protective against the virus. If it is only a small number, then immunity certificates won’t help restart strategic businesses or economic sectors at scale, notes Dr. Kahn. The prevalence of the virus in most countries with reliable data is below 10%.

“The fear is that if you were to allow immunity certificates, then only people who could pay for it, who could access it, might be able to return to all these benefits including international travel, while the rest of the population might be stagnating until a vaccine is developed,” says Dr. Voo, adding governments may need to consider compensatory benefits for those who not immune. “You still need to look for other strategies to allow people to transit to normal functioning and normal life.”

Daniel Cole/AP
French gendarmes approach a car on the Franco-Italian border in Menton, France, June 15, 2020. Border checks could be facilitated by immunity passports, by allowing carriers to bypass mandated quarantine periods.

Or a greater burden on minorities?

Others worry immunity passports could pave the way for dystopian and deeply undemocratic societies – akin to that depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

“It is concerning for us as a society to establish an entirely new biological line by which we are going to decide the haves and have-nots, i.e. the immuno-privileged and the immuno-deprived,” says molecular biologist and bioethicist Natalie Kofler. “We know from history and all sorts of situations that when we start dividing society in those ways, it causes great harm to society as a whole, as well as to the individuals.”

She points to the experience of New Orleans prior to the Civil War. Immunity from yellow fever, a mosquito-borne disease that killed about half of those who caught it, was taken by the local community as a sign of “acclimatization” to the city at a time of high migrant arrivals. Parents wanted their children to marry survivors and politicians touted overcoming the disease as a badge of honor. The erroneous assumption that individuals of African descent were more resilient to yellow fever was used to justify slavery.

Fast-forward two centuries and similar scenarios are playing out again, she notes. Privileged, generally white people get to stay in the safety of their homes while low-income people, often ethnic minorities, were out on the front lines working throughout the pandemic. The possibility of front-line workers contracting the virus is greater than those who stayed home. By giving them immunity passports, the burden of what should be a collective responsibility to fight the pandemic disproportionately falls on them.

“If the motivation for immunity passports is to restart an economy, [then] those who are unemployed or underemployed, those who are elderly, children, those who may have physical or mental disabilities are certainly going be last in line for this scarce resource,” says Dr. Kofler, a lecturer at the Harvard Biomedical Ethics Center. “And secondly, if you then layer on racial inequity, which is a huge issue in most countries of the world and in particular the U.S., people of color are going to be last in line.”

She also has serious concerns over racial dynamics when it comes to access to testing and monitoring. Texas testing sites for the COVID-19 virus were concentrated in predominantly white neighborhoods. Stop-and-frisk laws in the United States and Canada disproportionately impact people of color, so she says it is easy to imagine police focusing on these groups if empowered to check the immunity status of people on the go.

“At the end of the day, we just don’t know enough about how COVID-19 immunity works,” warns Dr. Kofler. “If any government is actually dedicated to evidence-based policy, it would be just the height of folly to build a policy around something like this where we still have so much uncertainty.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.


10 books to bring hope and insight to your June

Humans are fundamentally good, Longfellow deserves a reappraisal, and butterflies are marvels of aerodynamics – these topics make for sparkling June reading.


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Dutch historian Rutger Bregman puts forth a “radical idea” in his new book, “Humankind”: that “most people, deep down, are pretty decent.” Other books that Monitor critics chose as June’s best include a gripping novel looking at race, identity, and the meaning of home; an exploration of the language of butterflies; and how America crafts its own history.

10 books to bring hope and insight to your June

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster
“An Elegant Woman” by Martha McPhee, Scribner, 416 pp.; and “The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World's Favorite Insect” by Wendy Williams, Simon & Schuster, 240 pp.

1. The Voyage of the Morning Light by Marina Endicott

An intrepid young woman journeys with her half-sister and captain brother-in-law aboard a Nova Scotia merchant ship to the South Seas in 1912. Awash with vistas of beauty, the novel follows the deep pull of the characters toward harmony, justice, and home. The tale shimmers with intelligence and humor.

2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books, 343 pp.

Twin sisters take very different paths in this gripping exploration of race, identity, and the meaning of home. A poignant combination of mystery and history, the novel moves as briskly as a beach read while addressing issues of great weight. While the plot occasionally hinges on unlikely coincidences and surprises, the same could be said for the nation and the times that are chronicled in this book.

3. An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee

Set adrift by their parents in the difficult world of 1910s America, two young sisters anchor themselves by embellishing their family myths; in alternating chapters, their descendants work to understand their legacy. Flashes of gleaming prose illuminate Martha McPhee’s novel, which is rooted in her own family history and offers much insight, if you have time to linger.

4. The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor

This gripping mystery introduces Maggie D’Arcy, a top-notch Long Island homicide detective whose cousin vanished in Ireland 23 years ago. The book’s intriguing characters spiral through multiple timelines, plot twists, and lush Irish settings, and Maggie’s quest to finally learn the truth runs parallel to her hopes of reuniting with a lost love.

5. Cross of Snow by Nicholas A. Basbanes

The poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow aren’t in great fashion today, but in the first major biography of the fabled New England poet in many years, Nicholas A. Basbanes argues that Longfellow is starting to make a comeback. His exhaustively researched account of Longfellow’s life and career should give that reappraisal a boost.

6. Union by Colin Woodard

Historian Colin Woodard tells not the story of how America became a nation, but rather of how America crafted its own version of its national history, and how that national mythology has changed over the decades. 

7. The Language of Butterflies by Wendy Williams

In this fascinating book, Wendy Williams not only lovingly relates the variety and natural history of butterflies around the world, but also shares with readers the weird and wonderful stories of the people who have chased, studied, and explained butterflies over the centuries.

8. The Cubans by Anthony DePalma

Former New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony DePalma tells the vivid story of communism through the eyes of several generations of Cubans. He includes telling details, such as the pantomime of stroking imaginary beards before criticizing the government, to avoid retribution for mentioning Castro’s name. DePalma shows what life was like, and is like, for Cubans.

9. Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
“Humankind: A Hopeful History” by Rutger Bregman, Little, Brown and Company, 461 pp.

Rutger Bregman puts forth a “radical idea”: that “most people, deep down, are pretty decent.” In a chatty, engaging style, the Dutch historian sifts through academic studies and reassesses historical events to support his feel-good thesis – one that, he notes, ought to have far-reaching implications for how we run our workplaces, schools, and prisons.

10. The Brothers York by Thomas Penn

Thomas Penn puts an irresistible personal face on the legendary Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster by focusing on the tempestuous brothers at the heart of the conflict.

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How the world’s mayors line up against COVID-19

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Cities have been at the epicenter of the pandemic, both in the number of lives lost and in being closely watched for the quality of governance. Mayors, who govern closest to the people, have had to show high levels of compassion along with a firmness and wisdom in enforcing social distancing, shelter in place, and mask-wearing. One of the most common words they use is kindness. The virus has hit the most vulnerable people in urban areas and, as it recedes, mayors want to focus on inclusive recovery.

“Let’s make kindness contagious,” Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor often tells residents. In April, she had the highest approval rating – 78% – among Florida’s big-city mayors.

One reason kindness has been so necessary is that the crisis has sown disunity. “This is a virus that thrives off of division,” says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We can all show respect and be respected and appeal to our better angels.”

Kindness is not written into any city laws, as far we know. But a law of kindness now seems evident in many cities. And it’s spreading.

How the world’s mayors line up against COVID-19

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu inspects food to be delivered to people in need amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Like most mayors, Mansur Yavaş has shepherded his city of Ankara through the coronavirus crisis with urgency, efficiency, and hope. Yet there is one quality that explains why he has lately become the most popular big-city mayor in Turkey – and even more popular than President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It can be seen in advertisements put up around the capital at the start of the COVID-19 emergency.

The ads encourage wealthier residents to help pay the bills of poor people, either directly or through a special nonpartisan charity. Tens of thousands of people who now have no jobs, for example, have shown up at grocery stores only to find their tabs already paid by an anonymous donor. “Kindness is more contagious than disease,” the ads state.

Mr. Yavaş’ campaign, known as “One Heart Ankara,” is echoed in Istanbul where another popular mayor, Ekrem Imamoğlu, has his own “pay it forward” campaign. It also helps poor people get rid of virus-related debts, such as overdue electric bills.

Around the world, cities have been at the epicenter of the pandemic, both in the number of lives lost and in being closely watched for the quality of governance. Mayors, who govern closest to the people, have had to show high levels of compassion along with a firmness and wisdom in enforcing social distancing, shelter in place, and mask-wearing.

One of the most common words they use is kindness. The virus has hit the most vulnerable people in urban areas and, as it recedes, mayors want to focus on inclusive recovery.

“Let’s make kindness contagious,” Tampa’s Mayor Jane Castor often tells residents. In April, she had the highest approval rating – 78% – among Florida’s big-city mayors. She also is known for starting citywide dance parties “to remind us that we will get through this together.” Residents can tune into local radio stations once a week and dance and wave to neighbors while listening to the same tune.

Many mayors realized early on that outside aid was not coming soon. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said her motto was “God bless the child that’s got his own” (from a Billie Holiday song). The city has spent millions to aid seniors, children, homeless people, and others.

During the crisis, hundreds of the world’s mayors have shared their best practices through a virtual forum sponsored by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. At a recent forum for American mayors, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said, “We need you to help us heal from the unnecessary strife and division in our country. ...We need your compassion, your grace, and your love of your fellow citizens.”

One reason kindness has been so necessary is that the crisis has sown disunity. “This is a virus that thrives off of division,” says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We can all show respect and be respected and appeal to our better angels.”

Kindness is not written into any city laws, as far we know. But a law of kindness now seems evident in many cities. And it’s spreading.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

A more healing response to news alerts

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More often than not the news of today gives rise to fear, division, and anger. But we can challenge this pull and instead remain calm, clear, and focused on what God is knowing – which enables us to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem.

A more healing response to news alerts

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

There’s a thought-provoking story in the Bible’s Old Testament of three young men who were thrown into a burning fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that at his command – made known by “the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music” – every subject of his kingdom had to stop what they were doing and bow down to worship a large image of gold that he had erected.

The three Hebrew men refused and were quickly sentenced to death by burning. If necessary, they were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to faithfully worship the one God. But they also expressed confidence that God could protect them. And their lives were saved (see Daniel, Chapter 3).

Nowadays, the alerts that come to us to draw our attention aren’t conveyed by a traveling orchestra, but might be as simple as the beep of a smartphone. When a breaking news message arrives, we are expected to drop everything, surrender our calm composure, and get lost in the drama of some issue. But whether these alerts come to us through a smartphone, via today’s town criers – the commercial media – or in a social media discussion venting outrage without ever suggesting a solution, I recently realized that some of these alerts are not all that different from Nebuchadnezzar’s announcement to worship his golden image.

The Bible story tells about these three men holding to the true God in the face of being ordered to worship a fake god. As then, today’s challenge is to put God first, and that can be difficult if everyone around us is upset, enraged, or fearful. Anger, outrage, and fear can spread like wildfire, and it may seem next to impossible to find the mental quiet needed to hear what God is saying. But that is exactly what news of danger requires: stillness and listening to God for the right answers.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the news or other people’s anguish. We can never turn our backs on those who fear or mourn. But we can help them better by communing with God, seeking and finding answers from God, and letting spiritual inspiration lead us forward in our prayers and lives.

So how do we keep the golden images of today’s turmoil from interrupting our focus on God and the truth of His spiritual creation? After I realized one day that I was hearing a Nebuchadnezzar-like cacophony of alerts, and was about to bow down to the worry associated with them, I started paying close attention to the source of these alerts and my reaction to them – was the looming worry or discouragement I was tempted to feel coming from the divine Mind, God?

Another kind of alert, a call to be awake to what influences us in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, helped me gauge the answer to that question. It says: “In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one” (pp. 82-83).

It was freeing to understand that false gods – thoughts that don’t have their source in good, in the one God – have no jurisdiction over me, whatever guise they come in, such as the temptation to fear communicable diseases, terroristic threats, political nepotism, etc. I knew I was completely free to stay focused on what God, divine Mind, was telling me about each situation—that He loves His creation and will not send disease or disaster.

More than once this spiritual understanding enabled me to remain calm when others were fearful, and that calm was also sufficient to calm others. Giving in to the fear associated with feeling helpless was unnecessary. God is our help, as the three men who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image knew: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:17).

Keeping our focus on understanding God enables us to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem, when facing the mental chaos that is constantly reported. God, good, is always alerting us to His dominion and supreme power. When we listen to God, we find freedom and happiness and can help spread them to those around us.


Relief in sight

Zik Maulana/AP
Ethnic Rohingya greet a rescue ship from the deck of a boat off North Aceh, Indonesia, June 24, 2020. Indonesian fishermen discovered dozens of hungry, weak Rohingya Muslims on the wooden boat adrift off Indonesia's northernmost province of Aceh, an official said.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us today. Tomorrow, Peter Ford takes an in-depth look at how America’s step back from a leading role in global affairs is reshaping the world. 

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