COVID-19 and Climate: Threat or Opportunity?
By Massin Akandouch and Bianca Carrera Espriu
Since Wuhan China's quarantine started, thousands of news articles around the world have been talking about how COVID-19 confinement is being beneficial for the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
Indeed, we can say that we have experienced a recession in our carbon levels, but we must keep in mind that this reduction has been made on numbers that were already too high; therefore we cannot really talk of healing. The purity of the air we see today in cities like Barcelona, New York or London has not been seen for decades, and it has been proven that only by stopping the speed of activity at which capitalism made us feel comfortable with, will we be able to adopt these levels of solidarity with the planet and the environment.
However, this break in the system may not, in the long run, benefit the environment at all. A few months out of "business as usual" will not let our ecosystems to recover since we're seeing that governments have already started to plan for the next couple months in order to make up for their lack of profit this pandemic has caused, and that could lead to a situation of economic activity even higher than we had, which will worsen the climate crisis even more. This measure will be applied and established for the sole purpose of saving large companies, corporations and banks ––those sectors that carry out those economic activities that have proven, now more than ever, not to be responsible for the welfare of our society in times of emergency.
Whereas the best science available today has been telling us that unless there is a drastic change in our production and consumption model, tougher times will come in less time than we thought due to environmental disasters ––maybe world leaders should be thinking about how long they plan to develop new economic and productive models in order to be prepared for the future that lies ahead so that the coming crisis is not as bad as the one we have just experienced.
After all we have experienced in recent months (which has served as a sham of what a global emergency could look like), this should be a good time to realize what needs to be done. To begin with, the implementation of measures in favour of infrastructure and public services (not only when we are already in a state of emergency). And finally, a plan to change our economic model to a stable system, aware of social needs. But most importantly: environmentally conscious. Otherwise, global emergencies will not remain a thing of the past but will become a reality that could end with our civilization and planet as we know it.
But there's still hope. One of the things the crisis caused by COVD-19 is that it is important to see the value of social movements, common solidarity, and global responses; which can have huge consequences, to the point of fighting a pandemic like this one. Together, more than ever, we have shown that in order to save and protect our society, we are able to stop everything, to abandon that productivity-based lifestyle, to prioritize common benefit and collective well-being.
We have proved that we have what is needed to deal with threats like this, and so that perhaps time for citizen responsibility may be coming to an end due to the termination of confinement, we must not forget the spirit of solidarity that is currently around us.
Most of the global industrial infrastructure is currently quarantined, and some of the industries most responsible for the destruction of the environment and for communities in the global south, such as animal agriculture or fossil fuels, are tirelessly asking global governments to be rescued from the disastrous economic damage that has been caused by the pandemic.
Like all crises, the climate crisis will also have the most detrimental effects on the working class folks, which without having been responsible for producing it, we will have the worst consequences. But it doesn't have to be that way. COVID-19 has shown that we can literally shut down the whole world: if we don't work, there are no businesses; and if we don't consume there is no economy. It's us who can decide not to participate in this productive model that is bringing world welfare towards a bottomless precipice. We are the ones who, if we realize what's coming for us, can stop it all, again and give no other choice to governments than listening to us.
To us, young people who tell us to remain silent while our future is being ignored, they say, 'Nothing can be done', or 'Why trying if we won't achieve anything?' they ask us ––forgetting that all the democratic rights we have today have not always been assured and that if we have them it has been thanks to the fact that people have risen and fought so that we can have them today. That is why today when the most basic right we have is at risk (the right to a future, to a healthy environment for everyone), we must shout louder than ever before it's taken away by greed and profit. We now have the realization that collective movements can move EVERYTHING, but more important: we now have the realization that with the intention to save lives, states around the world have the power to stop the economy.
At the end of the day, fighting the climate crisis is not just about fighting for yourself. We are also fighting for your children and grandchildren, we are fighting for everyone, for the people. People we may not even know, we need to take care of everyone, just as we have shown that we care about everyone these days.
Whenever we young people rally, strike, talk to politicians and world leaders, the answers we hear most often are 'It's not possible', 'It's not realistic', 'There is not enough time to do what you ask'. But now what? You have already shown that radical and immediate action for the benefit of everything is possible. Obviously it comes with a cost, but the cost of not taking action to stop the climate crisis will be even higher and with more victims.
If we don't act to stop the climate crisis, it won't be much different than what we are experiencing nowadays: we'll have 24/7 media coverage about it, a lot of people will die and there will be suffering all over the planet. But the only way to tackle the climate crisis is with solidarity and action, just like with Coronavirus. This is how we can all pause everything together to save the planet for generations to come. The response to the Coronavirus has taught us how people can mobilize and do their part when governments have a clear path and plan to communicate with civil societies.
We hope that this emergency does not go down in history as 'The second crack in the world economy' but as 'The turning point that drove change that put everyone at the centre, and saved us from what could have been the extinction of our species'.
About the Author
Bianca Carrera Espriu comes from Barcelona, Spain. She is a 16-year-old student and activist for the environment, animal and human rights. Bianca has been part of local social movements like Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion, Amnesty International and Made in Action. In the future she plans to study International law to bring social demmands to the political debate worldwide
Massin Akandouch is an 18 year old activist based in Barcelona, Spain but originally from the Rif region (North of Africa). His main activism focuses are climate and social justice as well as animal, human and rights. In Barcelona he works with organisations such as Made in Action, Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion.