I’m writing a series of articles for Exeter Cathedral’s monthly news, on the changes we can make in our own lives, and how we can encourage governments and business to make necessary structural changes. We have til the end of 2020 to ‘save the planet’. So that’s just 8 months now.
Or… How can we work together to save our life-support system and cherish God’s good creation? Because although we are focused on COVID right now, the climate emergency remains.
Many people have already been thinking about the relationship between the two: how COVID was triggered by human activity, venturing too far into wilderness; how the reduction in polluting industrial activity and traffic during lockdown has led to improved air quality, less noise, a resurgence in wildlife, and greater connection to the outdoors during our allotted exercise time; and the opportunity presented to reimagine our economies and lifestyles more sustainably.
However, COVID also poses a threat to climate action, if it distracts us and allows Shock Doctrine and Disaster Capitalism to take hold. We have already seen how authoritarian regimes have tightened their grip. Governments are propping up big business instead of supporting those least able to cope. Vested interests continue to push fossil fuels while investment in clean energy is at risk.
One recent probably COVID-related death was sadly that of Sir John Houghton on 20 April. Sir John was a climate scientist and former director general of the Met Office. In 2007 he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Two days later, on Earth Day, Greta Thunberg wrote on Facebook: “The changes needed to safeguard future living conditions for all species won’t come from governments or businesses. It will come from the best available science and public opinion. So it’s up to us.“ Two days after that, she wrote on Twitter: “Today we had planned a global climate strike with millions taking part. But in an emergency you have to adapt and change your behaviour. The climate crisis is still ongoing and we must fight every crisis.“
7. Reframe ‘normal’
Lockdown is tough, so my seventh “What can I do?” is to suggest we try to reframe it as an opportunity. Not just to think about what we might change when things ‘get back to normal’ – we can’t go back to our abnormal ‘normal’. How instead might we live differently now?