Social unrest
Social unrest is something that the world has seen a lot throughout history. Pandemics, which can lead to job loss and food insecurity, only exacerbate the issue. Over time, people have experienced the Black Death, Spanish Flu and COVID-19.

Historical Ties

World history is full of examples that show pandemics being incubators for social unrest. In an article on the history of epidemics, the author stated, “academics have warned that the level of social unrest around the world may spike once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.” This is a common theme following epidemics. Massimo Morelli, a professor of political science, and Roberto Censolo, an associate professor at the University of Ferrara, studied evidence on protest and unrest. Between the Black Death in the 1300s and the Spanish Flu in 1918, there were around 57 epidemics. Of those, only four did not have a clear connection to the outbreaks.

This study showed that epidemics and pandemics can lead to social unrest in three ways:

  • Policies that try to curb the spread of disease can conflict with people’s interests
  • The pandemic’s impact on mortality and the economy can worsen societal inequalities
  • The psychological shock can lead people to believe irrational narratives about the disease and its spread

Recently examples of the third example have occurred in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicknames like the “kung flu” and the “China virus” have caused rifts between the Asian community and people using phrases like those. This has only further exacerbated the racial divide in the United States. Any one of the above factors could make people quite aggressive when the pandemic ends.

Current Events

During the first half of 2021, Cuba, South Africa, Colombia and Haiti have had violent protests with their citizens hitting the streets. Each country has faced pre-existing economic, social and political hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic inflamed. For Haitian citizens, this culminated after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Additionally, existing tensions in countries around the world are morphing into civil unrest and protest against inequalities deepened by the pandemic. COVID-19 has worsened the weaknesses in food insecurity and increased the number of people affected by chronic hunger. With these factors in mind, perceptions have determined that the spike in global unrest and long-term rebellion will continue.

Economic and Political Impacts

Pandemics unquestionably cause long-term economic effects globally. By straining economies, COVID-19 could be the source of potential political instability, which increases the number of people living below the poverty line. Curbing a pandemic takes a lot of work including:

  • Imposing quarantines
  • Preparing health facilities
  • Isolating infectious cases
  • Implementing an effective contact tracing system involving public health resources, human resources and implementation costs

This also includes the cost of creating antibiotics and providing medical supplies and personal protective gear. Frontiers in Public Health stated that “Pandemics can also result in declined tax revenues and increased expenditure, which causes fiscal stress, especially in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) where fiscal constraints are higher.” Labor shortages, restricted travel or trade and disruption of transportation are factors in how pandemics tie into global poverty.

In addition to the points above, pandemics can cause clashes between nations and populations that have experienced displacement. In nations with weak institutions, pandemics can cause political tensions and unrest, like what is currently happening in Cuba. The pandemic exacerbated economic hardships, leading to civil unrest and protests.

Future Avoidance

People cannot do anything to stop pandemics from happening, but they can change the fallout and subsequent social unrest. History has shown that epidemics more often than not lead to social and political unrest. To avoid that in the future, it is necessary for countries to better prepare themselves. Authorities should take into account how prevention methods affect people’s lives. Next, it is essential to set up programs to account for businesses closing. Furthermore, countries should implement more mental health care so that people do not suffer. Finally, people must consider the economic divide and those living in LMICs.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr