Important connections can be made between the novel Covid 19 pandemic and climate change and doing it in a good way requires nuance and skill or risk appearing hard-hearted and opportunistic. — THE CLIMATE MOVEMENT AND COVID-19 website
The coronavirus pandemic is fast becoming the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. Bigger than either of the two world wars, this crisis is global and reaching almost every country on the planet. COVID-19 is forcing us to hit the pause button and reassess our behaviours and lifestyles. It’s forcing us to ask questions and reflect on how we can best prepare for future crises including the climate crisis on the horizon.
The Climate Movement and the Coronavirus Pandemic
Recorded March 19, 2020
Standard YouTube Licence
In this webinar video, health professionals on the front-lines of the pandemic who have also spent much of their careers making the links between climate and health discuss what to expect from Covid-19, some of the best connections that can be made between Covid-19 and climate change, and what else the pandemic may mean for the climate movement. (Video description in YouTube)
(Note: The following narrative has been paraphrased from the video).
We’re in a radically different world
We are in a radically different world than just a few weeks ago. The COVID-19 crisis is now the overriding concern for individuals, communities, governments and global organizations.
People in the climate movement are uniquely prepared to respond. We spend all our time thinking about the climate circumstances we’re now in because we care about the future of the planet, the health of people and the health of the planet.
We have an opportunity to build capacity for compassion, empathy and altruism in the face of what we always knew was coming. This will not be the last crisis. We have to respond by building the world we want to see.
The Climate Movement—organizations and activists—have a very key role to play. We have incredible digital capacity, big lists, and huge hearts. We understand what it means to move quickly and responsibly.
We are witnessing unprecedented levels of communication between individuals, groups, politicians and governments.
It’s not the right time to make asks about the climate. People are finding it hard to cope with the pandemic. Their emotional bucket is empty. Coming at this with a climate perspective is wrong. The climate movement needs a new narrative.
Our climate meta-narrative has to shift
The world-is-on-fire narrative must be set aside both during the coronavirus crisis and also post-crisis. The public will have no appetite for engaging in the next crisis. Many will be suffering from COVID-19 burnout.
We must avoid ‘Yes-But’ framing such as ‘Let’s pay attention to the coronavirus but let’s not forget climate change’. That will be counterproductive and insensitive.
People in the climate movement must emphasize the importance of planetary health and how it affects human health and public health.
What happens during this pandemic fits into what we’ve already been talking about for years — ecological networks, loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation.
Social determinants of health are supported by ecological networks underneath. In order to have good public health, everything supporting that has to go well.
Because of the interconnected just-in-time everything world we live in—supply chains, finance, digitalization—we’ve lost the resilience a society requires. We need to rebuild resilience at the community level.
Action alleviates anxiety. When individuals get anxious about a situation, it’s best to treat it as a constructive unpleasant emotion and then to act.
Let’s emphasize the importance of listening to science and the experts in their respective fields and acting according to their recommendations.
Let’s focus on good news. Pollution is down, people are driving less, people helping people, community building, spending more time with family.
Nature is open 24/7 and can replace other recreational activities we were doing prior to COVID-19. By reconnecting to nature, we can point out how nature can help us reach 30% of the way toward attaining our Paris emissions targets by 2030 with nature-based solutions.
We need to harness the organizing capacity and digital mobilization of the climate community with virtual care and support by using virtual meetings—saving both time and reducing carbon emissions.
We must harvest the best practices for crisis management and response including mitigation and adaptation strategies from the climate world. Let’s use those stories and scale them to the pandemic.
This is a huge moment for reinvestment away from fossil fuels. We must reframe our asks as an extension of the divestment campaign with an accelerated focus on reinvestment in clean energy, renewables, carbon recapture, in short, the transition to a sustainable future.
The climate movement has both the digital capacity and social networks to help mobilize resources to make it through this crisis. We have opportunities to push our government in various ways for measures that will lay the foundation for climate solutions later. In other words, laying the groundwork for a post-crisis push on the climate. And our strongest play is to support people right now.
Leading with the best part of this movement—compassion, sensitivity and empathy—will result in the best outcome for as many people as possible. We must help people find their finest selves.
This is the world we need to build coming out of this crisis rather than looking at the wreckage in our wake.
This is no time for fear. But it is time for action. We can learn from this pandemic to help shape a more sustainable world. And the question on every climate activist’s mind is this: will this health crisis be a catalyst or an inhibitor for global action on climate change?
This article was previously published in Below2C