We Live in an Interconnected World

Posted on April 9, 2020

By Angelo Ioffreda, EcoAction Arlington Board Member

During the time of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and Earth Month, the word interconnectedness – the state of being interconnected – has been top of mind.  It’s a word that I have been thinking about a great deal and on many levels. 

There is the level of the gigantic ecosystem called Earth, sharing air, water, plant and animal life, and microbes that we are all part of.  We can imagine zooming out and in using an imaginary telescope from the ecosystem of nearby Sparrow Pond along the WO&D trail, to that wooded Arlington, to Virginia, to the eastern seaboard, to the United States, and ultimately of the world as seen from space.  And then zooming back in from space in the reverse direction to be back at the pond.

Harmful microbes and viruses are part of this system too. There are constantly mutating and evolving, and sometimes jumping from one species to another to terrible effect. They’re jumping more frequently because of human encroachment and loss of natural habitat. And because we live in a global environment, viral outbreaks in one part of the world can quickly spread and engulf us all. Physical barriers like oceans and walls are unlikely to keep them out.  What happens in Wuhan matters here, and what happens in New York also matters there.  Keeping an eye on evolving natural diseases and potential pandemics requires constant vigilance as well as cooperation among scientists and countries worldwide. We can never let down our guard.

On the societal level, the virus has shown how interdependent and dependent we are, even on people that we don’t often see or appreciate fully. The heroes of this crisis are the people who produce household products and grow our food, prepare and ship them to local groceries, and staff the stores to make them available to us, all while ensuring safe physical distance. There are the healthcare workers who are caring for the sick from COVID-19 while trying not to get sick themselves. There are the laborers who are going back to factories to make ventilators, masks, and other products needed on the frontlines in containing the pandemic. There are the mail and delivery men and women who bring things right to our door. There are the scientists in the labs scrambling to develop new tests and the vaccines that will immunize us. The current crisis has brought into relief this previously invisible interconnectedness.

What we’re learning through this unprecedented episode is the importance of listening to the scientists. Scientists have been telling us that the Earth is warming, and this will have an even more significant impact on our lives and our communities in the years ahead. The implication for us is that to act at the personal and local levels is also part of acting globally. We need both global and local action.

Informed by a global consciousness of the ecosystem we share called Earth, EcoAction Arlington is working locally to make a difference in an interconnected world.