| UCSC | April 02, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has upended daily life around the world, and is simultaneously triggering challenging questions of discrimination, governance, and trust, says sociologist Jenny Reardon, who calls for higher levels of public oversight and vigilance as the pandemic unfolds.

Reardon, the director of the Science and Justice Research Center at UC Santa Cruz and a leading scholar of genomics and medical ethics, said the pandemic has been “decades in the making,” rooted in profound ecological disturbance and climate change, as well as the gutting of public health infrastructure and—public governance itself—amidst the ravages of “hyper-capitalism.”

“This isn’t a temporary hold on normal life,” said Reardon. “It would be more accurate to think of this as a complete reconstitution of what is going to be counted as normal.”

Climate change is a “public health problem,” according to Reardon, noting that industrialization, habitat destruction, and climate change make pandemics more likely. But the crisis is revealing fissures not only in the ecological world, but in the human domain, as well. Lack of government preparedness in this country, underscored by the lack of coronavirus tests and protective equipment like masks, has focused discontent on the Trump administration, but Reardon said it would be a mistake to focus too much attention on critiquing Trump. “Obama gutted the public health infrastructure, too,” she said. “We all need to take responsibility for what’s going on. Everybody has a role to play here, and everybody has responsibility.”

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