The year is 4200. During the year 2020, a pandemic, that develops from the virus Coronaviridae, spread throughout the world. This virus easily spread in the environment, and remained a long time in surfaces. It also spread through human contact. Therefore the use of facemasks was required during this time, accompanied with self-isolation measures. As such, the production of face masks became a booming business. As such, the facemask may be seen as representing a shift in human behaviour that has lasted until today. The impacts on the environment have been countless. It is because of the masks and other plastic objects that almost 60% of our oceans are currently deserted.
If we would have taken action before, we might have been able to avoid these desastrous, long-reaching series of events. Today, we take care of every resource we have, but back then, the earth was so rich it was depleted by ambition and power of money. During the 21st century, plastic ran the economy. It was so common to use plastic that it was in every particle you can imagine, air, water, soil. It is because its components and characteristics were so strong that they have remained in every corner of our world. It was not known that it could cause so much disease and destruction, at least, some part of the population was aware, but most of it didn’t take part in reducing plastic consumption until the effects of plastic were so visible it was inevitable to deny its harm towards living things.
Facemasks are an interesting representative of this moment in time. First of all, because it is a representative object from a very crucial moment in time. There have been a lot of pandemics throughout humanity, but this pandemic is from the new era: where consumerism was the norm. Because of this type of behaviour and lifestyle, this disease, the first of many to come, was produced. Covid-19 comes from a virus developed by eating bats. Back then, in some countries meat consumption from exotic animals was allowed, and there was little respect to wildlife. Even Though the meat from these animals was not beneficial to humans, they were still consumed. Mainly because, there was a lack of connection between humans and their surroundings. All types of surroundings, from inanimate objects to lively objects. But, in this story, we will explain how an object as simple as a facemask can actually be connected beyond our imagination to the world.
The pandemic caused humans to be locked up in their houses. They were in lockdown for approximately 3 months, to prevent the virus from spreading. But due to economical and health reasons the lockdown could not be held forever, so the population could slowly go back outside. But in order to go out, there was a requirement: to use a facemask. Many face masks were sold. A lot of petroleum was extracted, a lot of fabrics, spandex, cotton and plastic fusioned materials were used in order to make masks. They were all over the world. Everyone in the world had a mask. Although not many persons were happy to use them, it was the norm in most parts of the world. Using a facemask was considered protection, to yourself and towards others. It was almost a symbol to wear it to some people. If you chose not to worry then it could be interpreted that you did not believe in the virus, or that you did not care about spreading it. In other places, it was seen as if you worried about others, that you were conscientious about people.
Wearing masks was so significant at those times because it told a simple history: when a mask wearer coughs, sneezes, or simply breathes, the mask acts as a barrier that blocks the flight of virus-laden droplets. This was especially important in a disease where people without symptoms can spread the virus. Without symptoms, there’s no way to know when to stay away from others, so, the thinking goes, we should all assume we might be sick and wear a mask. It was a concern not only on what people at those times were seeing, such as garbage but it also contaminated spaces in where they were growing, the air they were breathing. Air quality was negatively impacted by environmentally unsound practices, such as open burning or other suboptimal waste management methods. Adhering to environmentally sound practices for waste management, especially COVID-19 waste, and maintaining high environmental standards and enforcement was essential.
If you were imagining what about a cure or a vaccine that could help the entire world to beat COVID-19, you have to know that getting a vaccine that works on human beings has to be tested in a prolonged time so doctors and experts can discard other diseases while trying to end with others. Organizations formed international alliances to expedite vaccine development and prepare for distribution, including the WHO which was facilitating collaboration, accelerated research. Thanks to our new technology we can have vaccines immediately but back then a vaccine for an infectious disease had never before been produced in less than several years, and no vaccine existed for preventing a coronavirus infection. This is another important thing to point out whenever we are talking about the importance that wearing a mask had back then.
Also, we believe the great lung collapse and massive respiratory problems of the year 2035 derive precisely from the massive input in plastic production around the globe. People were dropping like flies because of inhaling microplastics that were present everywhere in the air and in the planet’s water supply. This caught the global population off guard because the very thing that was helping them prevent respiratory ailments caused by the virus ultimately ended up getting people sicker!
The face mask epidemic came after the Covid-19 one and the planet suffered irreparable damage and it can still be seen if you dig straight down. After a couple dozen meters you will inevitably find fossilized remains of the facemasks. Another important aspect of life in the year 2020 was the usage of masks in the fashion industry. In our museums we can see various examples of “magazine” cutouts that advertised masks with patterns and different designs.
This is also believed to have caused a more prominent spike on plastic pollution.
We now know humans have always had the same problem. Even nowadays! We try to solve something without knowing the possible side effects our actions might have…