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Climate Chaos in Coronavirus Pandemic

How do you write about the climate emergency as we enter near-lockdown in response to all too valid fears about death and social and economic devastation?

Quite understandably, in the present circumstances, many people just do not have the head space nor the emotional capacity to contemplate the apparently remote but much more serious global climate emergency, or even just think about their next lifestyle adjustment to reduce their environmental impact.  There are jobs to worry about, and cash flow, home-schooling the kids and elderly frail relatives to consider, and shopping for essentials when shop shelves are bare.  So let’s think about some positives.

Since the corona outbreak, there’s been a marked reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: big reductions in industrial activity and travel, especially aviation.  Last time we saw a reduction in the rate of emissions was after the 2008 financial crash… but that soon reverted to the suicidal “business as usual” with consequent return to accelerating emissions.

But people are noticing other things too – things that bring joy and a smile.  Folk comment on the pleasure of there being fewer cars on the streets, not being stuck in traffic jams, hearing the bird-song, far fewer contrails in the bright blue skies.

Many workers are discovering that they can conduct more business than they had imagined from home.  Gone is the expensive, tiring, time-consuming commute.

Neighbourhoods are discovering a sense of local community, with people looking out for one another; neighbours who were previously strangers are offering to help with shopping; people are volunteering for community support roles.

We are realising that in many situations, the people that we all depend on are those who are among the lowest paid; workers who are putting themselves at risk by serving us.

Could it be that the corona crisis will prove to be an invaluable learning experience, that helps us to re-adjust what we value, and thereby help us to re-order how we run our society?  A more equitable, more just and caring society, more in tune with nature and less obsessed with consumption and celebrity?

When this virus scare is over, will we revert to rat race and the illusion of infinite growth on a finite planet, and an economy where winner takes all (except for a tiny trickle down…)?

We need to do some hard thinking now.  How can we work together for that better world?

To be continued, with your help.

Geoff Stratford

29th March 2020

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