When you watch the mainstream media, you’ll notice this striking similarity between the climate crisis and the covid pandemic. The media can’t shake this firmly held belief that we have the solutions to both of these crises at our fingertips. The only issue is that unfortunately, neither crisis actually is actually being improved by these silver bullet fixes.
To be clear, we do have the ability to solve these crises, as I’ve talked about ad nauseam. But the solutions are not vaccines and green growth. Conveniently enough, the solution for both is to end capitalism. Sadly though, the media will never tell you that. Or at least they won’t while we still have a chance to save ourselves. Presumably they’ll change their tune once it becomes obvious to everyone that it’s too late to avoid every coastal city in the world becoming a treasure trove for scuba divers.
Boris Johnson at the moment is talking about how frustrated he is with world leaders not doing enough about climate change. So much so that he almost managed to convince me that he cares about the environment. Of course that’s ridiculous. If he was actually mad at other world leaders, he would be mad at himself for pretty much everything he’s ever said and done regarding the climate.
What he’s actually angry at is the possibility that he’s going to look bad when COP26 is a disaster and it reflects badly on him. He doesn’t care if any agreement is based on a fake solution of green growth with a ridiculous target of Net Zero in 29 years from now. All he cares about is that he can take the plaudits for “solving” climate change in Glasgow. Anything that happens after that (eg society collapsing, life on Earth ending) would just be a coincidence and nothing to do with him.
It would be really helpful if very soon we start to appreciate the real solutions, rather than glorifying fake ones.
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.
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.