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How serious is air pollution in worsening the effects and spread of COVID-19?

By Ashley Battiata, VI Form

How serious is air pollution in worsening the effects and spread of COVID-19?

Student Note: For the final two weeks of Remote Learning in Advanced Environmental Science, I chose to learn more about COVID-19. The prompt was broad; therefore, I specifically focused on how air pollution and COVID-19 are related. For example, does air pollution spread COVID-19 faster, and does it worsen the effects of the pandemic? Or do these two environmental problems not impact each other at all? While researching, I expanded into another topic that most people weren’t talking about: how both air pollution and COVID-19 are affecting a specific demographic.  

A very specific type of air pollution called fine particulate matter or (PM2.5)  is associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 in the United States. PM2.5 is associated with burning things, such as coal in a power plant or gasoline in one’s car. It is dangerous because of how microscopic the matter is, specifically 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which gets into the lungs and bloodstream and causes damage to our health.The smaller the matter is in diameter, the easier it is to penetrate into the lungs and bloodstream and to get past airways designed to cough out irritants. This leads to future problems such as asthma, heart attacks, and other chronic diseases.  According to a Harvard study, an increase of only “1 μg/m3 in PM2.5 is associated with a 15% increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate,” which proves that there is a relationship between exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality rates. 

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Space is Physical. Place is Personal.

By Kian Sahani, VI Form

Space is Physical. Place is Personal.

As Thomas Bender says in Making Places Sacred, “the places we make act as mirrors to our lives. They reflect the good or ill, passion or indifference, with which we hold them back on to the people whose lives they touch. Places, as well as people, draw sustenance from how they are held in our hearts. How we feel towards them does strongly affect our lives” (Bender 1991: 321). For the Faith Family Missionary Baptist Church, it is the people and the connections made between them that makes it a place. Monique Azzara stresses this fact throughout her article, Grappling with the Impermanence of Place: A Black Baptist Congregation in South Los Angeles. To Faith Family, finding a sense of place does not require significance associated with a physical space, but rather with other people. 

In the article, Azzara describes how Faith Family has no permanent space of worship because of low funding. As a result, members must meet in a different place every time, removing the possibility of a lineal place. Yet, the members are still able to find a sense of place within the community. Azzara provides a strong example of a group of people finding a place within each other, without the need for a physical space, showing how one’s sense of place is relative to their view. The social and spiritual factors of Faith Family are made apparent by Azzara, who argues that “congregants build fellowship by pooling their resources in an attempt to follow the call of God to do good, and to recruit and save the disenfranchised” (Azzara 2019: 77). The members’ sense of place is shaped by these relationships of solidarity. At the same time, their place is challenged when it has no concrete features. 

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