As I have searched for words to describe the experience of living in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, none have captured it quite as well as Dr. David Kessler in an interview with the Harvard Business Review: "We feel the world has changed, and it has. [...] The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air."
For me, and I believe for many of my RFF colleagues, this has been a time of unparalleled uncertainty and grief. To hear of people suffering across the globe against a threat they may not be able to fight—against not only a virus but an economy that is sinking into a recession—is painful beyond description. And yet, though I won't speak of silver linings in a decidedly dark time, there are things that give me hope and strength in this time as well.
Despite the economic turmoil and grave health risks posed by this virus, I’m heartened by the commitment of public health experts, business and community leaders, and many others who are canceling gatherings; closing schools, libraries, and stores; and making other difficult decisions needed at this time. Likewise, we are seeing people around the world self-quarantining—crucial actions that will help protect communities by slowing the spread of the coronavirus. These are all courageous examples of collective action, which rely on every one of us to do our part for the greater good.
I’ve been struck, too, by the resilience of the RFF community throughout this crisis. Our staff has transitioned to teleworking as smoothly as can be hoped for, a change we implemented to protect our colleagues’ health and safety and promote the broader public health objective of limiting social contact to “flatten the curve.” We are working together to ensure everyone at RFF has the resources and support they need at this difficult time.
Earlier this month, RFF postponed in-person events, and we are now developing a line-up of virtual events and webinars that continues to engage our community on pressing environmental and energy topics. We encourage you to visit RFF’s events page and sign up for event invitations to stay up to date. While most national and global attention will understandably be focused elsewhere in the near term, RFF will continue to develop the ideas and solutions critical to addressing long-term environmental and natural resource challenges, which may look a bit different in the months to come. This work includes our line-up of research and editorial publications, such as a groundbreaking new study on the impact of national monument declarations and our latest issue of Resources magazine.
Rarely has it been clearer than now that we cannot completely predict the future. No model or forecast can tell precisely what will come from the next weeks or months of fighting the novel coronavirus. The present is confusing and uncertain, but those of us at RFF will continue to do our part providing independent research and analysis, working with policymakers to inform decisionmaking, and communicating our findings to the public. We are carrying on with our critical work, and we are grateful for your continued support.
Richard G. Newell
President and CEO
Resources for the Future