One notable bright spot these days: are we in the midst of a
Sidewalk Chalk Art Renaissance?

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Dear Friends of SSV,

We hope the newsletter finds you and your family physically and emotionally and nutritionally well through this challenging period. We mourn and miss those who have succumbed to this most modern of plagues like that happiest of warrior Donald Kennedy, among the 10 Gordon Manor victims. We continue to marvel and admire the determination, bravery and professionalism of our healthcare providers, responders and essential service providers of all stripes. 

As Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a recent statement, “A pandemic of this scale is unprecedented. We are progressing steadily as a region, but we must reduce restrictions on activity gradually or we will put the lives of many community members at risk.”

So…are we there yet? Well…no, not exactly. We begin the month of May locked down with a few additional allowances for outdoor recreation and business activities considered low-risk. No wild beach parties, even if some natives are getting restless.

There is no question that the longer we shelter the better our chances but the stronger the cabin fever. The optimists among us might see nothing but these impressive blue skies, but SSV Chief Scientist Anthony Strawa cautions about making too much of this particular good thing. “By every measure, air pollution levels are falling. CO2 emissions could decrease as much as 8% this year and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), NO2 and NOx are down as well (see the telling TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument [TROPOMI] images below). Unfortunately, like a little cool water added to a hot bath, the impact on atmospheric CO2 has been only slight. Our nice skies are not permanent until we decide to decarbonize our world economy.”

Our world and our lives have changed, with the least likely prediction the return of everything to the way it once was. In fact, history has shown that energy use increases from an economic recovery have been larger than the declines. We face a drastically restructured economy ahead featuring among other things the home-as-office, chessboard seating and reconfigured dining. Concern for public safety will occupy the front of our minds for the next few years. Since viruses have no respect for borders, it has become painfully obvious that a health care system is only as good as it is widespread throughout a community.

All of these issues are inter-related; there can be no justice without environmental justice. Long-term exposure to air pollution, both outdoor and indoor, increases dangers associated with diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease and asthma. These diseases increase COVID-19 severity and mortality. Polluted air exposure can make immune systems overreact and exaggerate inflammatory responses versus pathogens. The emerging science of immune disruption casts a very harsh light on the high social costs of “forever chemicals of convenience,” the PFAS, BPA and Phthalates that have seriously disrupted our immune responses. They should not be part of our food systems and water supply.

Today’s clear coronavirus skies are in fact an Overton window view forward to the possibility of reform across many inter-related topics. Can we finally get serious about flattening the climate curve? We are paying for both the extremely high cost of ill preparation for disease vectors and the negative market price of oil; failing to systematically plan and address the impacts of a changing climate will take a much much higher toll.

Sustainable Silicon Valley is gearing up for this braver newer world of challenges ahead, from air quality and mobility (slow streets!) to optimally clean water systems and advancing decarbonization. The food we eat, the purchases we make and the policies we support all matter greatly and need to align with societal goals. Under the project umbrella of Sustainable Life, we are planning exciting new initiatives, synthesizing the science, connecting many dots and working hard expanding our outreach. You can now find us on Twitter in English (@SustainableSV) and Spanish (@BahiaSostenible), see us now on Instagram (SustainableSV) and Pinterest (SustainableSV) or you can keep up on Facebook (SustianableSiliconValley) and LinkedIn (SustianableSiliconValley). Wherever you go, there we will be.

Meanwhile, keep safe & sound. Here’s to la Vida Sostenible ahead!

Jennifer Thompson & Dennis Murphy