Covid will Never End Until we act on Climate

After a year and a half of covid chaos in the UK and around the world, I think it’s fair to assume at this point that covid-19 will not end until we get serious about the climate crisis. Specifically, that means ending capitalism and reducing consumption drastically and immediately.

Technically, New Zealand has proven that you actually can continue with capitalism while still keeping covid at bay and protecting your citizens. But you need to do short and sharp full lockdowns every time local cases begin. We’ve seen just today Jacinda Ardern putting NZ in lockdown for one locally transmitted case. That might sound strange to people in the UK for example since we currently have 30k cases per day (officially) and no restrictions, but it’s what a good government does.

But because most countries seem incapable of learning that very simple lesson, we won’t end covid globally that way. And even if we could, it wouldn’t solve the aforementioned capitalism and consumption issues that are wrecking our climate. So that leaves climate action (specifically system change) as the only option.

If we end capitalism, and we move to a type of system where we live more local lives and people are provided the basics to live, then it would be incredibly easy to stay away from others and end the spread. People wouldn’t be forced to go to work where they could catch or spread the virus. A roof over their head, food on the table, water, heat, etc would be guaranteed. Poverty and homelessness would be consigned to the history books.

Every day we keep doing nothing, we’re making both crises worse and worse, leading to unnecessary suffering and the deaths of a huge number of people. We have to ask ourselves whether this is really the way we want to live when we can have so much better. Will we say enough is enough and force an end to the type of politics that is unwilling and incapable of doing anything about covid or climate?

I really hope so, but it has to be soon. COP26 can’t be a green growth summit with weak goals for 2050. This system isn’t working. Take a look around you and ask yourself how much of what you see is making your life better and happier? And when you realise not very much of it is, stop living the way society wants you to.

Doing Something about the Climate Crisis isn’t Better than Nothing

I’m not even sure this is true any more

Recently, people often tell me that I should accept any progress that is being made towards sustainability. But I always push back on that. The climate crisis is now so dire that only huge, immediate change can give us any real hope of a future we can look forward to.

We know that we have to get emissions to zero as soon as possible, capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and deploy solar radiation management techniques. That’s what the latest science is saying. Switching to EV ownership, or slowly electrifying bus fleets over decades aren’t things I’m going to support. They’re arguably worse than doing nothing. Because when you don’t understand and consider the whole problem, and just take various measures that aren’t part of a joined-up strategy, you take your focus off of what must be done, and waste precious time as well. Two things we absolutely can’t afford.

Obviously I don’t want to actually do nothing. But if we took the time to understand the full scale of what we’re facing, society would be far more likely to come to the collective realisation that the entire system has to change.

The more I think about this, the more I realise how much of a problem it is. It applies to almost everything. From trying to build bike lanes when in reality the only thing we have time for is banning cars; to net zero carbon targets where planting forests that could later burn is seen as a solution. The entire system we have right now is just trying to present guaranteed future failure as a solution we should get behind.

It’s time we started talking about real solutions. The big solutions. Banning cars, banning domestic flights, cycling, public transport etc. The types of things that can have an impact now, when we really need it. Not in 30 years when it will be too late.

Trapped

Back in the April-May 2020 full lockdown, I felt scared, but I never felt as trapped as I do now. Back then, there was a sense of community. People were taking the stay-at-home message seriously and when I did go out for my 30 minute exercise, people were wearing masks and generally showing some compassion for those around them.

Fast forward to the present and cases are still ridiculously high, we have the delta variant, the restrictions are totally gone, and everyone seems to think the pandemic is over. I haven’t been out on my bike for a couple of months now. I haven’t even left the house. During the Olympics, I did nothing else. I Just dived headfirst into sports all day, every day for 16 days. I didn’t even go outside to relax in the garden.

I still haven’t gone outside except for a few minutes today. I put the deck chair down, but then realised the neighbours (who haven’t taken covid seriously from the start) were sitting in their garden and the wind was blowing from their direction straight towards me. So I gave up and went inside. No way to relax when I’m imagining covid particles floating my way.

You might say that’s paranoid, and you’d probably be right to say that. But living in this country over the last year and a half has taught me to always assume the worst. Assume the pandemic will never end, assume there will be more and deadlier variants that spread easier and evade vaccines. Worry that I’d somehow contract the virus from our selfish neighbour through a garden hedge! It all sounds perfectly logical in this open-air nut house of 67 million.

At least if the roads were empty, as they would be if we took either the covid crisis or the climate crisis seriously (too much to ask of the Tories I know), I could get outside and ride my bike. It would still be unpleasant if all else stayed the same, but at least I would feel comfortable enough. If I lived in a modern country, maybe I could even dream of a nice, quiet bike lane into the countryside. You know, those ones the Dutch have literally everywhere you see a field in their country.

The Nightmare Scenario

I got to the point a few years ago where I was hoping for the extreme weather to get worse and worse, because I knew it was the only way we’re ever going to get sufficient climate action. And it seems now that we’re rapidly approaching the point where it will finally force massive change. But then we got the news that methane is leaking from limestone bedrock underneath thawing permafrost in Siberia. This made me question everything, because if this gets as bad as scientists have speculated for years, then we could be in for massive warming in a very short time. If the climate is still in our control now, then it definitely won’t stay that way for long in this scenario.

It would no longer matter if tomorrow we ban private cars, planes and everything else we could do to reduce emissions immediately. Nothing we do would matter as it would be the ultimate tipping point. The nightmare scenario.

Imagine far-right nutters telling us climate change is still imaginary as the methane spews out of the bedrock, rapidly heating the planet and leading to societal breakdown at a speed so fast that no one can even understand it before we’re living in the apocalypse. I can honestly imagine it and that’s the nightmare.

I always thought that we would get to the brink and be able to turn back at the last second, but this news took that assumption and trampled all over it.

I keep saying that the left might only finally take power when the climate is so fucked that there would be nothing left to win. But now, could it even be that the far-right / corporate centrists could govern us all the way to our collective demise?

Is that the ultimate “owning of the libs”? To despise the people with the facts to such an extent that you’re willing to destroy all of life on Earth? Is that the grand ambition of Rupert Murdoch? To end life on Earth to teach those lefties a lesson in neoliberal corporate capitalism?