Editor’s note: This essay was written for a social studies class at Escalante Middle School. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the paper was written from home.By McKenzie Hayden
Escalante Middle School
During this time of coronavirus, it has been useful to look back at one of the world’s worst pandemics, the Black Plague, and see which lessons from the plague can be applied to COVID-19.
The Black Plague devastated both Europe and Asia as it rampaged through their midst and killed about 50 million people. The symptoms of the Black Plague included chills, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth or under the skin. The origin of the disease is still debated.
As stated by Worldbookonline.com, “Historians have long thought the Black Death originated as an outbreak of plague in Central Asia. However, new research indicates the outbreak may have originated in Laishevo, in the European part of Russia.” Europeans were unsure how the disease spread, and many people started to live by the motto, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”
Worldbookonline also states, “Physicians at the time did not know the cause of the disease … Many people believed the plague was punishment from God. In some regions, people whipped themselves in grotesque public processions in an attempt to appease God’s anger.” People wanted to stop the violent rampaging of the Black Plague so they started taking desperate steps with the hope of stopping it.
The Black Plague was one of the most tragic episodes in history, however, it had both positive and negative outcomes. During and after the plague many things changed. Although, some things actually changed for the better. One change was the immense increase in demand for certain items.
According to Leonard W. Courie in the article “The Black Death and Peasant’s Revolt,” “Since it was so difficult (and dangerous) to procure goods through trade and to produce them, the prices of both goods produced locally and those imported from afar skyrocketed. Because of illness and death, workers became exceedingly scarce, so even peasants felt the effects of the new rise in wages.” This gave peasants more work, but as they began to move for work, they came into close contact with more people, thus putting themselves at an ever-larger risk.
A good outcome that occurred because of the Black Plague, was our understanding of how diseases work. Perhaps if the Black Death and other pandemics had not occurred, we would not have a good understanding of how diseases spread between people in close contact. So we might not know that staying at least 6 feet away from other people can truly help.
Now, we find ourselves in another historic pandemic – the coronavirus. This too may change our world in significant ways. One thing that might change indefinitely from this pandemic would be how we communicate face to face with other people. According to Deborah Tannen on politico.com, “We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky. How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but it can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year.” We have all pretty much become accustomed to staying 6 feet away and wearing masks because of the exposure you risk when coming in contact with people. This might never go away for some people, especially those at higher risk. Another possible outcome would be global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Newsela.com, “Global air traffic decreased by 4.3% in February ... Scientists estimate that so far, the virus has stopped China from releasing about 200 megatons of carbon dioxide. A megaton is 1 million tons.” With everyone staying home, no one traveling or driving around, less and less carbon dioxide is being released into the air. If this continues, this might be the break the environment has been looking for. This could demonstrate that global warming can, in fact, be reversed; and if we really work hard, we can create a healthier planet.
The Black Plague was one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen, and now we are living through another one as well. COVID-19 has shaken up our communities, and although we don’t entirely know when things will return to normal, we all just need to look at the larger picture. When looking back at the big picture, even the horrific Black Plague had some positive outcomes. Whether it be sooner or later, everything will eventually go back into its natural flow of things. However, while we are living through this, why not learn something from the past that applies to this challenge?