For more than a year, COVID-19 has changed the way we live in dramatic and unpredictable ways. As the pandemic continues to create a “new normal,” this summer offers an opportunity to envision and work more urgently toward a stronger economic system and a healthier planet.
As you’ll read in this issue of Trust, a fair court system, high-speed internet, and a healthy ocean are all foundational to economic prosperity. Helping people who have amassed debt or are facing eviction is a particular post-pandemic concern. Erika Rickard, director of Pew’s civil legal system modernization project, explains the challenge this way: “If only one side is in the courtroom, only one side gets heard.” That one side is typically the collection agency. The facts are never determined—including whether the money is owed—and the creditor wins by default. But as we report in Trust, Pew has identified steps states can take to improve the civil court system: track data about debt claims, ensure both sides can present their cases, and provide timely information online.
Even if states put some of their judicial processes online, that will not help the millions of people who lack access to high-speed internet. The digital divide was already an obstacle to economic opportunity before the pandemic. But as schools turned to remote learning, homes became workplaces, and telehealth replaced office visits, communities without broadband fell further behind.
The federal government has earmarked more than $100 billion for broadband expansion. And as Kathryn de Wit, director of Pew’s broadband access initiative, points out, “States are uniquely positioned to close the digital divide.” In Trust, you’ll learn how Virginia and other states are developing innovative funding mechanisms; partnering with businesses, local governments, and internet service providers; improving data collection; and making better use of fiber optics—all to ensure that a technology many take for granted becomes a service every American can access.
Worldwide, the reliance of coastal communities on the ocean’s bounty has led to a new focus on the “blue economy.” Tom Dillon, who leads Pew’s conservation work, explains in this issue the damage that global warming, overfishing, plastics, and other threats have wreaked on the global ocean. That’s why Pew has joined an international effort to preserve at least 30% of the world’s seas by 2030. The benefits of “30 by 30” include protecting biodiversity, building resilience to climate change, and strengthening the global economy. With a collective effort, we can keep commercial fisheries sustainable, seafood processors in business, tourism thriving, and much-needed revenues flowing into local communities.
In some parts of the world, offices are reopening, the travel industry is reviving, and schools are getting ready to welcome students in the fall. But many of the challenges we faced before COVID—including the health of the ocean, the complexity of America’s civil courts, and the lack of broadband access—still demand our attention. That’s why Pew will stay focused on finding evidence-based solutions that will accelerate the recovery already underway and encourage long-term, durable change.