The future of sustainability and COVID-19: What comes next for society?

The Unfolding Sustainability Generation 

Ecology Prime is pleased to share the exceptional work and unique perspective of seven bright minds from the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, Sustainable Enterprise course, of Fall 2020. Individually, the points of view shared by these independent thinkers, are timely and unique. Collectively, these voices beckon to a broader generational shift that has been underway, and which is becoming more inclusive, diverse, and focused on a shared pursuit of a more sustainable future.

Mark Coleman, adjunct instructor of Sustainable Enterprise and an award-winning author of three books on sustainability, introduced a class of 29 students to Sustainable Enterprise. The course’s content, purpose, and learning objectives are focused on providing the tools, methods, and understanding of how systemic changes influence business and entrepreneurs and consequentially, how business and entrepreneurs address the needs of society and create new paradigms through sustainable value. The course is part of a broader curriculum which prepares students to engage in transdisciplinary collaboration to develop sustainable solutions to complex organizational challenges. The essays and video presented here over the next weeks were submitted as the Sustainable Enterprise course’s final projects.


The future of sustainability and COVID-19: What comes next for society?

By Jared Simon

Before March 2020, Americans lived each day interacting regularly with other people; there was no social distancing, traveling for vacations and business trips was common, and masks were not a necessity. Now, it is looked down upon to live out each day as if coronavirus does not exist. With the drastic effects of climate change being experienced throughout the world, it has become impossible to avoid the consequences behind this chapter in history. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, there will be no turning back to life as it once was… How will American society progress?

Climate change has always been a significant issue for the U.S., although developing a national solution remains politically controversial. From a Democrat’s point-of-view, climate change has the potential of devastatingly impacting people’s livelihoods and the approaches toward various practices need to change. Centrists recommend that a moderate level of reforms be spaced out over several decades, while far-left progressives feel that there should be massive changes in a short period (“The Green New Deal”). However, Republicans believe that addressing climate change has the potential to disrupt the U.S. economy by limiting jobs and growth in various industries, as well as “forcing” citizens to sacrifice parts of their lifestyle (e.g. type of car one can drive, being dismissed from oil-related jobs, etc.). Current circumstances are not drastic enough to seek major reform, and far-right conservatives do not appear to acknowledge the problem. 

Beginning with the appointment of the Trump administration in 2017, the U.S. government executed a rollback in policies that were brought about by the Obama administration; this includes, but is not limited to, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement (cuts greenhouse gas emissions throughout 195 countries), deregulating Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan on greenhouse gas emissions, and undermining rules revolving around the flaring of methane from oil/gas production on public grounds. Trump’s new policies boosted fossil fuel production, a major contributor to air pollution, which has grown by 5.5% since 2016. As a result of these policies, in states like California (where a dry and hot climate is common), the environment becomes more susceptible to wildfires; this led to increased air pollution. 10,000 lives could have been saved in 2018 had pollution levels remained identical to that of 2016. Without stricter regulations on dangerous practices against the Earth, it is only a matter of time before we fail to recognize our planet. 

Thankfully, there is hope. From March through May 2020, as many states were embracing lockdowns, carbon monoxide emissions dropped drastically; traveling was a lot less common and jobs involving fossil fuels were limited. To put this into perspective, between March 20th and April 3rd, the consumption of gasoline dropped 50%, which led to temporary, albeit clearer skies in areas with significant pollution. In addition, major cities, such as Boston, MA, and Oakland, CA, implemented roads designed for walking and biking, thereby taking away the emphasis on driving. However, this level of significant change has only been displayed in a few regions; identical habits need to be embraced and maintained nationally over a prolonged period to make a significant difference. 

Unfortunately, the global pandemic has also worsened today’s problems related to climate change. The purchasing and use of non-recyclable, disposable materials have drastically increased, as hundreds of thousands of venues across the U.S. cannot safely use reusable items (e.g. restaurants cannot serve drinks in glass cups or food on ceramic plates). Hand sanitizer, soap, food utensils, and most other necessities are all packaged in one common material: plastic. Therefore, landfills are being filled with non-recyclable materials at a faster pace. Additionally, scientists have found it difficult to perform research. Similar to private citizens, researchers are bound to the state and local laws set by their jurisdictions; traveling and/or other research methods necessary to gather data is limited. For example, researchers studying the effects of climate change on species in deserts and rainforests cannot actively travel to their respective areas frequently. 

Due to the pandemic’s level of influence on this global challenge, the U.S. must take a stronger stance. Over the next 4 years, it is expected that President-elect Joe Biden and his administration will carry out or reimplement its own set of reforms to make a notable impact against climate change. He is expected to roll back Trump’s deregulations and withdrawals on past policies, and a series of executive orders will be signed on the first day of Biden’s presidency. This will pave the way toward a clean energy economy by 2050, as his congressional demands will enforce the necessary mechanisms and investments toward short-term measures to embrace the use of green, renewable energy (e.g. windmills, solar power, electric-powered vehicles, hydropower, etc.). Lastly, Biden will institute and enforce new policies on international partners of trade (e.g. China) to stop the outsourcing of carbon pollution and subsidization of coal exports. 

Over the past few months, a lot has changed regarding how American society handles each of its challenges. Climate change has always been a significant, global problem; however, it has been exacerbated since the onset of COVID-19. The U.S. and the rest of the world has a long way to go in addressing climate change and its notable impact on human lives. The end of the pandemic and the promise of a new presidency should raise awareness and prevent further catastrophes associated with climate change… How will you make a difference in saving our planet? 


Jared S. Simon

I am currently a senior at Syracuse University studying Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises with a minor in Music Industry. Some of my interests pertain to songwriting and music production, and I’m looking to start my own business to develop products for the music production equipment industry.


Sources Cited 

Gross, Samantha. “What Is the Trump Administration’s Track Record on the Environment?” 

Brookings, 4 Aug. 2020, 

Ingraham, Christopher. “Air Pollution Is Getting Worse, and Data Show More People Are 

Dying.” The Washington Post, 23 Oct. 2019, 

“Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice | Joe Biden.” Joe Biden for President: 

Official Campaign Website, 2020, 

Simon, Matt. “How Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Climate Change?” Wired, 21 Apr. 


“The Politics of Climate Change in the United States.” Pew Research Center Science & Society, 

4 Oct. 2016, 


Feature Image Photo Credits
Students from Left to Right:
Jared Simon, Madison Covino, Zachary Fredendall, Stephanie Pearson, Joshua Simoncic, Camryn Lawyea, Josh Katowitz 
Composite Image 
Buckminster Fuller – Montreal Biosphere, 1967 – Photo by Cédric ThévenetCC Wikimedia Commons
Disposable cups – Photo by Ann H. – CC Pexels
Box of face masks – Photo by Ivan Samkov – CC Pexels
Rainbow – Public Domain Pictures CC
Plastic bottles – Photo by Magda Ehlers – CC Pexels
Girl with facemask – Photo by Maksim Goncharenok CC Pexels
Path with girl – Photo by Vlad Bagacian – CC Pexels
Ocean pollution – Photo by Artem Beliaikin – Pexels

Post Photos 
Girl with facemask – Photo by Maksim Goncharenok CC Pexels
Box of face masks – Photo by Ivan Samkov – CC Pexels