During this period of reflection, our team recognised there were some uncomfortable similarities shared by the pandemic, and the impacts of global climate change. A key learning has been just how connected we really are as a global population. The virus made us reliant on daily science briefings to inform our new normal social behaviours as we looked to our doctors, researchers, and elected leaders for guidance and reassurances that the disaster is in hand. In addition, this health crisis immediately impacted global markets and rapidly triggered unemployment figures reflective of those in the Great Depression. Consideration of global responses reveal that those who acted firmly and early, were able to significantly reduce the chaos that ensued.
Reflecting upon these universal characteristics, it could be argued, that COVID-19 and the Climate Emergency are a lot alike. They share a global geography and are irreverent to nationalistic borders. They both have the potential to result in mass market disruption and reactivate a civic reliance on the State as civic protector. They involve externalities, and challenge systems resilience. The two issues are invisible, you can't touch them or see them in motion, but you can certainly witness their path of destruction. Additionally, the mitigation measures to deal with both emergencies are entirely dependent on data, research and science. Importantly, the outcome of both situations is very much driven by civic action or inaction. Lastly, both play out in the theatre of the all-powerful Mother Nature.
The Corona virus truly challenges the anthropocentric view of the world. If Mother Nature can simultaneously bring the global population to a grinding halt, and arrest the financial markets with a virus, it strikes us that perhaps now might be the time to consider a humbler eco-centric lens.
In the past year, we’ve found ourselves reflecting on what really counts when the 'busyness' stops. Closed were the gyms and offices, forcing many of us to familiarise ourselves with our own local neighbourhood and landscapes. We all noticed the steady stream of folks out walking, running, cycling morning, noon and night. With all sport cancelled, families could be seen walking and biking together in the great outdoors of our parklands and waterways.
Perhaps this time of reflection will result in a renewed affection for nature? Notice the kookaburras at dawn now? Or, that the sunsets are magnificent this time of year? It's that feeling of spontaneous awe that Mother Nature can conjure up with an ancient tree or a stunning sunrise. That feeling of awe intimately connects us to nature. It was inspiring to see how quickly Mother Nature took this opportunity to recover, with cleaner waterways and skies observed all over the world.
As our diaries begin to fill up again and we return to a sense of normality, in Australia at least, it’s important that we don’t forget the important lessons learned as a result of COVID-19, our collective love for our environment, and our shared responsibility to protect it and do everything in our power to mitigate the risk of its demise due to climate change.
For the first time since the Great Wars, we are witnessing global communities coming together to look out for one another, as we all make sacrifices to protect those most vulnerable. Every citizen is taking actions for the greater good. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is a rehearsal for what's to come under climate change?
The vicious summer of 2019-20 made it clear to every Australian citizen that climate change has arrived. Rather than a futuristic scenario model, climate change became something that could be cruelly counted; 18.6 million hectares burned, 5900 buildings, 2779 homes destroyed and 34 lives taken. Australians battled drought, floods, fires and then a public health crisis accompanied by an economic wreaking ball. These events must influence the psyche of the Australian resilience, and readiness to take action against climate change.
Post Corona isolation, what will remain? It strikes us that COVID-19 is providing a clear window into what global climate change might look like. COVID-19 has demonstrated that a change in the ecosystem in one part of the world, can cause global economic turmoil, illustrating how the two seemingly unrelated systems are intricately related. If a virus can cause a global financial catastrophe, what will climate change do? Surely now the argument of "the cost of action is too high" no longer stands up to interrogation when we will be re-paying the cost of inaction for generations.
In addition, COVID-19 taught us in no uncertain terms, that delayed action costs lives. Early Columbia University models indicate that a response delay of one week cost 35,000 American lives. A two-week delay cost the US 54,000 lives.
By contrast, and closer to home, COVID-19 has demonstrated that Australian state and federal governments can unite rapidly to flatten the curve. Perhaps this is a rehearsal for the inter-governmental co-operation required to address the multi-faceted challenges of climate change. COVID-19 has proven that governments and global populations can take action when consequences are visible.
Still the question persists, as we emerge from this great pause, what will remain? What will we take with us, and what will we disregard as no longer viable, relevant, true, or important? Now that life has resumed its ‘new normal’, what will be important? After more than a year of renewed trust and faith in science and scientists, will we finally stop dismissing climate scientists?
For more on our COVID-19 response, please see our Safety report here.