Here we have a global crisis, in which nations and individuals, business and governance have become extensively engaged. We are becoming intimately aware of our weaknesses as a global society as infection spreads and demand for medical care increases. People are quickly becoming aware that the consequences of this infection go far beyond the virus itself, as we see the impact to the economy, flow of goods, and societal repercussions. In a relatively short period of time, there has been a widespread adaptation of human behavior and the alarm bells are sounding. People are learning about how to mitigate risks of infections and have been rapidly altering their daily behaviors, learning about where their goods come from, what they need to survive, what they don’t need, and how they can weather this storm. They seek regular updates on the status and are altering their plans in response to these updates. It is on the forefront of everyones minds as we fear for the safety of our loved ones.
I find it very interesting to see this response to a viral outbreak compared to the warning sirens of climate change. There are so many parallels to this outbreak and the threats that climate change poses, yet the response is so vastly different. Things like food shortage, economic instability, travel complications, disease, reduced consumption, hoarding of goods, the suffering of the sick, poor and displaced, all of these things will be and already are consequences of climate change. Yet there has been nowhere near the rapid response and concern. I have to question why?
Up until now, I assumed that people wouldn’t take climate change seriously until it impacted them personally. But that has not been the case with this pandemic. So many people who have not been directly impacted are making drastic life changes to counter the potential risk. They trust the scientific professionals that have raised the alarm, and heed the provided advice, even at the expense of their daily life activities.
The only difference between the two issues that I can reason, is that the entities profiting from fossil fuel combustion have worked strategically early in the game to sow misinformation about the scientific certainty of the climate crisis (not a conspiracy! It’s on the books that Exxon knew and strategized since the early ’80s, keeping two sets of records) and have managed to make the issue political, and therefore divided.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic and humanitarian issue, and it threatens all and more that is under threat by this pandemic, humans and animal kind alike. I have a great fear for what will surely be lost in the face of it, and yet a great hope that humans will rise to the challenge, because everything we love and care for will be impacted by it. My whole adult life I have been witnessing the disease of climate change spread unchecked throughout the globe, without rapid response, without quarantine, without meaningful mitigation. I draw hope from the global response to this pandemic as a total wake-up call. I have this dream that the world leaders will announce, “This isn’t real, it is only a drill. Now act on the climate as if it’s a pandemic. Because it is.” While that’s sadly not true, and this is not a drill, I beg the world to apply the same immediate concern for our ailing atmosphere and all the beauty that it protects.