In the midst of this widespread disruption of business as usual, it may feel odd to think of the climate crisis. We are entering something new and unprecedented in our lifetimes, and we are rightly focused on adapting to our new situation. But now is a critical time to think about the climate crisis, for a window has appeared.
Time for Reflection
For many, as we shelter in place, this may be a time that offers more space and down time than usual. Our collective activity has slowed down. Our constant busyness has been ordered to halt. Much of our economy is slowing and stopping. In this collective time of suspending business, there’s a chance to reflect on what’s important to us and how we want to move forward. Do we want to return to business as usual, to the way we were living before?
COVID-19 and our collective response make a few things impossible to ignore. One is our mortality, our vulnerability, our fragility. Naturally, in the face of these truths, we are invited to consider what is most important. Another revealed truth is our interdependence, the importance of our connections, the importance of caring for each other. I’m finding a fresh appreciation of the significance of friends and family, and a renewal of our relationships. The disruption of our habits invites us to bring new care and intentionality to relationships.
Coronavirus and the Climate Crisis
With our vulnerability and interdependence underscored, we are also invited to bring new care to the way we are collectively and our relationship to this planet. These times are revealing the fragility of our systems, what it’s like to be in solidarity, and the possibility of mass-collective transformations in our ways of living. Seeing this possibility, it opens the further possibility that we could respond to climate change at this scale. For me, and I imagine many others, our collective response to COVID-19 is comparable to what we see is needed in response to the climate crisis. We may feel frustrated that this scale of response hasn’t emerged for the future of our planet, frustrated with the politicians, media, and corporations who have repeatedly told us that it is not possible.
Now, as our economy is shutting down, we have begun to see our earth healing–air pollution dissipating and carbon emissions dropping. We may be finding a new sense of community and collective purpose. When it’s time to start our economy up again, do we really want to go back to business as usual? To a senseless and absurd march toward the devastation of our planet? To busyness eclipsing the importance of solidarity? To our disfunctional medical system? To our fragile supply chains? To most of us living precariously close to bankruptcy?
Reclaiming our Future
Re-starting our economy, and in fact, warding off collapse, will require massive expenditure and economic action from our government. This is already underway. Rather than trying to revive our dysfunctional economic system and way of life, now is the time for a Green New Deal. Now is the time to start building a way of life that is locally resilient, ecologically sustainable, and fulfills our need for community and collective purpose.
In this slower time, let’s take time to connect with our friends and loved ones, to reflect on what’s important. And then, let’s organize. We’re seeing now that mass-collective action is possible. Let’s build solidarity and demand from all levels of our government the changes we want.
In this economic crisis, as our usual economic supports fall away, our government may take the unusual action of offering support. We may end up with some cushion, some flexibility and time unbeholden to the usual economic demands. When it’s time to go back to work, let’s use our position for a general strike, to demand and hold out for a Green New Deal. Let’s use this window to take back our collective agency and demand the future we want.