I keep meaning to write a post about the opportunity the current crisis offers to finally do what needs to be done to solve the major environmental and social problems caused by the behavior of humans, which are in fact far worse and more important than the crisis caused by the new coronavirus. Mentioned in a previous post that the response to this crisis shows what could actually be done and wasn’t, and still isn’t, but that was general and I wanted to point out a number of specific measures, including a few which are already taken for the crisis that’s currently recognized and which should be expanded and kept in place for the foreseeable future, as steps that are needed in order to have a chance to solve those other problems as well.
Considering the importance of the issue, it should go without saying that I’m having a hard time even trying to put together the ideas for that post in my mind, not to mention actually writing it. If I may use the term, I don’t dare to do it because I know I won’t be able to do it justice. But another reason why I’m having such a hard time with it is that what’s happening is quite the opposite of what should be happening, many using this crisis as an opportunity to ensure that things will get worse, so I find myself focusing on that instead of the path forward, once again wondering how to stop the mountain from toppling over and destroying even what little’s left instead of building the future. Exchanged a few messages with someone these days and she mentioned the depression and anxiety caused by worrying over how much worse things will get after this and I said I’m worried that what we’re currently worried about will prove to be nothing compared to what will really happen, because we can’t even imagine how much worse it’ll be.
Sticking to what comes naturally for me and focusing on those negative aspects, and also just on environmental matters at first, I intended to at least write a post to list some of those steps in the wrong direction. I was thinking of things such as the demands to “neuter” the regulations for aviation emissions; the attempts to halt or even reverse plastic bag bans and the fact that single-use plastic, plus various other materials, are now used at levels beyond even our previous nightmares; Trump exempting corporations from environmental regulations; Czech and Polish officials demanding to set aside climate goals to focus only on the new coronavirus; reusable containers no longer being accepted and the BBC article about Starbucks’ change of policy in this direction quoting someone who should definitely know better expressing the utterly baffling view that fighting the virus must be more important than the environment; streets being disinfected with substances that may well cause other health problems even for people, and quite clearly harm other animals and plants, having the potential to destroy pretty much all urban vegetation; clean air plans getting postponed; even the climate talks getting postponed, though this would have been the perfect opportunity not only to set the path forward, society finally being in the position to overhaul its fundamental systems and practices, but also for something as simple as no longer flying delegations from all over the world to such an event, making officials learn to discuss such important matters without physically being in the same room… And then, of course, we get to what I mentioned above, the efforts that will be made to restart the economy once the measures intended to slow the spread of the new virus will be eased, at which point any and all regulations are likely to be sacrificed on the altar of growth and profits to an extent unseen before, and which may well surpass our worst fears.
Well, I guess I did that now, but this was after seeing the condensed partial summary of these developments published by The Guardian, which misses some of those I listed above but adds many more, and the page put together by Mighty Earth which seems to have prompted that summary. That page also dedicates sections to the situations in Brazil and Indonesia, which I must admit I had mostly ignored, the former because it was as expected and I just glanced over titles and moved on, but the latter because I can’t say I saw articles describing it in the context of the current crisis until now. And all of these, while perhaps the most notable, are likely only the tip of the iceberg, and I’m sure there are far, far more such negative developments to be found all over the world. Plus that, again, this is only about environmental matters, though I’d also take this opportunity to point to the much longer article published by The Guardian at the end of March, which tackles various other problems that made up what used to be “normal” and which risk getting even worse if we won’t make full use of this opportunity to fix them.
Yes, there are also some rays of light among the darkness, such as Amsterdam’s plans, and the page and the summary linked above point out some others at the end. But I wouldn’t even call them rays of hope, as they’re few and faint, at this point little more than words unlikely to survive the other side’s onslaught, and even if they would, promising far less than what’s absolutely necessary at this point, not to mention what’s possible and desirable, considering humanity’s level of knowledge and development and the severity of the situation.
This is an immense opportunity, but merely an opportunity for change. And, after all, “the world is changing every day, the only question is who’s doing it“. Those who have only selfish, short-term, shallow interests in mind are always better at agreeing to work together for some common benefit and doing whatever it takes to achieve their goals, said common benefits being much easier to identify in their case and any qualms or misgivings being far from their minds. For that reason, as I already said and repeated above, I worry that we won’t only miss what’s certainly our best and possibly also our last opportunity to get on the right path and actually take large leaps forward, but that the current crisis will be taken advantage of in ways that will make the future worse than even our worst nightmares. And I’m not talking about a distant future, but about things that may well happen over the next couple of years, some perhaps even over the next few months.