The year 2020 will stand out in our minds, but also in our history books. We are halfway through the year and it is already the most bizarre year in recent memory. Sure, other years have had strange happenings, but few had so many global events happen in such a brief period. We affect each other in ways we could only imagine before 2020.
Breathing has historically been vital to sustaining life as we know it. Yes, that is a little sarcasm, but it drives home the point. We need air to breathe and when that perfect supply of balanced gases changes or harmful particles introduced; we suffer. The earth’s atmosphere comprises 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and about 1% of other gases (such as carbon dioxide, neon, and hydrogen). Conditions here on earth are ideal so we can thrive. In contrast, the atmosphere on Mars comprises 95% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and less than 1% of other gases such as oxygen, carbon monoxide, and more. If nothing else, this should remind us how lucky we are to live on this beautiful blue planet.
That’s enough science for this article. My point with that information was to provide some context of how important the air we breathe is and how the events in 2020 below relate. Three major recent events have affected our ability to breathe:
- COVID-19 (Coronavirus) — The virus primarily attacks the lungs. The most severe effects include pneumonia, sepsis, ARDS, and superinfection. Some of them ultimately leading to death. Survivors, however, have permanent scarring and/or reduced lung capacity.
- George Floyd — The tragic last words of a black man murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN were “I can’t breathe.” George was under arrest and the officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck, restricting airflow. George ultimately died. Since then, they charged the officers involved with his death. The event sparked riots and protests globally to bring attention to police brutality and systemic racism. The words “I can’t breathe” are their slogan.
- Saharan Dust Storm — An enormous dust storm from the Sahara Desert blew over 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and caused visibility issues. Health professionals also warned how this could affect those with allergies or asthma.
- Wildfires — While the Australian brush fires started in 2019, they are still burning in 2020. Even though they are under control, the effects of them are enormous. The smoke from brush fires is hazardous, especially to those with pre-existing lung issues.
Being able to breathe is definitely on the list of things I took for granted before this year. I’m doing my best to be a better human through these trials and tribulations that affect us all. Not only that, but I’m also doing my best to understand the perspective of others that may suffer in unique ways. Like it or not, we’re together and we affect each other.
I hope that the rest of the year is uneventful and that the most controversial topics of the day will soon be politics and which restaurant to eat at. Until then, stay safe, wear a mask, and don’t take your ability to breathe for granted.