America reborn: Changes for new year

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As 2020 comes to a close, many look forward to improvements in the next year. Changes in presidency and advancements with the COVID-19 vaccines bring optimism for issues such as the environment, immigration and social justice movements.

After the emergence of the coronavirus, social justice protests, talk of World War III, wildfires in Australia and the invasion of killer hornets, we have finally survived the unprecedented year of 2020. Now, it’s time to say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a better year in 2021. 

COVID-19 Vaccine

One of the most influential developments for this year is the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine. Multiple companies are in the process of testing possible solutions. In particular, the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have produced promising results, with both Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna reporting nearly 95% efficacy.

“They say [the vaccine is] 95% effective, and that’s obviously good scientific research, but we don’t know how it’s going to react with the more than 300 million people that live in the United States,” junior Sharon Santos said.

Pfizer has stated that it expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in total with BioNTech by the end of 2021. Though the presence of multiple vaccines is encouraging, the future of the pandemic also relies on how many people choose to take the vaccine. A poll by the analytics company Gallup showed that 58% of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

I don’t know if enough people will take [the vaccine] to create much change or have an impact on how we live our daily lives,” freshman Alexander Dorsey said. “I think that this experience has changed how we as a species think and feel about social interactions.” 

It is still uncertain when a vaccine will become available to the general public. Companies must apply to the Federal Drug Administration and undergo a long process to have their vaccine approved. Even when the vaccine is out, people will still need to uphold safety measures.

“I think things will get better, [but] they will not go back to how they were in 2019,” Santos said. 

Climate Change 

With environmental degradation posing a long-term threat, many were angered by President Trump’s nonchalant attitude regarding the issue. Not only did Trump publicly express his disbelief of the existence of climate change, but he also nullified several of Obama’s environmental protection policies, loosened regulations on air pollution and overall decreased funding for environmental protections. With Biden assuming office on January 20, a number of changes will be made to Trump’s previous policies. 

Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on his first day of office. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement is a pact that was signed in 2016 by various countries with the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to 3.6°F above pre-industrial levels. Many see this development in a positive light, as it is a sign of the U.S. taking strides in protecting the environment.   

Working to save the environment can only have positive consequences, and rejoining [the Paris accord] will be extremely beneficial in the long run,” senior and Students for Environmental Awareness/Action vice-president Anushka Motaparthy said.

According to Biden’s website, under his plan, his climate and environmental justice proposal will make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years dedicated toward clean energy. 

“I am very pleased that more money will be funneled into the environmental cause because it is one of the most important problems that we are facing today, and unlike many other issues, this is a dilemma that is time-sensitive,” Motaparthy said. “If we don’t take action right now, the effects of climate change will become irreversible. We need to do all we can in our power to at least mitigate its detrimental consequences.”

Biden is a firm believer of the Green New Deal and believes it is a necessary framework for combating climate challenges. In Biden’s clean energy revolution plan, a vision of his is to achieve a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Biden plans to issue a series of executive orders to achieve this goal.

“Carbon emissions rose by 3.4% last year, which is extremely concerning since we should be reducing our emissions instead of allowing them to increase,” Motaparthy said. “I’m really looking forward to [Biden’s] implementation of the Green New Deal since one of its main proposals is to achieve a net carbon emissions gain of zero.”

Social Justice

2020 has been a year of turmoil and progress for social movements like the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. BLM has brought attention to longstanding racial issues in America that has resulted in many protestors and supporters advocating for reform.

“Something we should keep in mind this upcoming year is that we must keep being adamant about advocating for equality and change,” Motaparthy said. “This past year, a lot of important topics were brought to light such as the Black Lives Matter movement which started a really important conversation in America that was long overdue. Although it may seem like we achieved the goal, there is still a lot of work to do regarding the issue and it shouldn’t be something that’s considered a trend or forgotten about.”

According to Time magazine, Biden opposes defunding the police but instead wants to provide more funding for police training, technology and community policing. Biden’s website states that he plans to close racial wealth and income gaps, racial health disparities, inequality in education and realize the right to vote and right to equal protection for African Americans. 

“There’s a lot of ways that we can deal with this problem, like proactively going after the root causes of racism,” Santos said. “I think we need to promote diversity and invest in programs that help marginalized groups.”

Immigration

In 2021, Biden is committed to reversing many of the immigration policies that Trump enacted during his presidency. His first pledge is to immediately end Trump’s “Muslim ban” which is designed to restrict immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries. 

“The immigration policies of the last term have been chaotic, inhumane and very dynamic, and not in a good way,” freshman Alexander Dorsey said. “I think that we will see immigration policies similar to the Obama presidency return, and the alleviation of the [Trump administration’s] xenophobic policies.”

According to Time Magazine, during his first 100 days in the administration, Biden plans to continue implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama initiative that Trump ended in 2017. DACA provides protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.

“The Trump administration handled immigration very badly. One of his main stances was to build the wall,” Santos said. “And now with Joe Biden, we’re going to have different rhetoric when it comes to immigration.”

Though 2020 has certainly been an unpredictable year in many negative ways, these upcoming changes give many optimism for the next year. 

“While the four past years, especially the latest, have been stressful, chaotic, and certainly unbelievable, it is important to remain hopeful and to see the light in all the darkness. This next year is a fresh start, with a new vaccine, a new president, and new opportunities.”