Monday, March 16, 2020

On Pandemics and the Climate

Everyone staying at home might buy us a bit more time to finalize policies that will actually mitigate climate change, if we actually care to do save even more lives. Juan Cole explains the connection between pandemics and climate change in this Truthdig article:
There is an exact analogy between Trump’s treatment of Covid-19 and his treatment of the climate emergency. In both cases, he and his surrogates attacked the science and took pride in giving the finger to reality. Trump actually promotes coal and petroleum, the dirtiest fossil fuels, as though he is impatient to see the lower floors of his Trump Tower in Manhattan under water. Likewise, he takes pride in holding infectious rallies and shaking hands. . . . People who don’t believe in science might have difficulty accepting this, but the climate emergency is deeply connected to disease and the potential for epidemics, according to the scientists at the World Health Organization. That’s right. The high end threat of one-point-seven million dead Americans is only the beginning if we go on burning coal, petroleum and other hydrocarbons. . . . 
Poor lung health is a serious risk factor for dying of Covid-19, and people who live near coal power plants or along highways or in cities with car- and power-plant-polluted air typically have poor lung health. Breathing air polluted by burning hydrocarbons produces the lung disease of emphysema the same way smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years would. It is worth noting that Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, is China’s 14th most air-polluted city. . . . The climate emergency is going to set bats, pangolins and many other animals in motion, fleeing as their food dies out in mass extinctions, and their habitats heat up, or dry out, or burn down or are flooded. The resultant mass migration of animals will put them in direct contact with human populations, hugely expanding the chance that pathogens will leap from them to humans. . . . . 
The tragedy is that we already have the solution. It is cheaper to build and run new wind and solar farms than just to try to go on operating a coal plant. . . . We don’t have to put ourselves and the next generations through hell. It is a matter of political will.

Maybe we'll be different on the other side of all this: more worldly, more humble, more conscious of the effects of our actions on one another, more willing to sing in the streets together.


ETA - this TEDTalk just out about the link between the virus and climate that was uploaded five days ago. She explains that this is not the last outbreak we'll see due to the level of contact we are having with wildlife on an unprecedented scale. She also cautions that people can carry Covid-19 without symptoms for up to 24 days - ten days longer than any other predictions. Our best option in future is to dramatically improve health care worldwide. This virus is showing us our interconnectedness. It's not enough for our country to have everything we need; we will only manage if every country has excellent health care and if we have worldwide, science-based protocols to follow everywhere. We're all in this together, folks!


The Disaffected Lib said...

I too wonder what we'll look like when we emerge from this pandemic. How healthy will we be economically, politically, environmentally? Will we finally see the role that neoliberalism played in this contagion and others it may help trigger for generations to come? Will we learn to appreciate resilience as a critical and essential component of our global civilization?

It used to be that a major disaster was followed by a post-mortem. What did we get right? What did we do wrong? What do we need to do to bolster our readiness for the next impact that is certain to appear at some point?

Isn't it time we rejected those who have engineered and those who accommodated the rise of the precariat? I have been incensed at the Trudeau government when the prime minister declared Canada a "post-national state." At the 6th month anniversary of coming to power he told a reporter that, above all else, he wanted to be seen as a globalist, a free trader. Some time after that Morneau announced that the gig economy was here to stay and that most Canadians had to accept a future of "job churn." I couldn't believe I was hearing these things from Liberals. It was as though they were puppets for the national Chamber of Commerce.

Are these the caliber of leaders we'll need to make sense of what is happening to Canada and the world and where we need change? Do they have the vision and the courage to break with the past and rebuild the nation state? We have fallen far behind the power curve and if we can't find that vision and that courage to get ahead of it and stay there Covid-19 may some day be forgotten, an entry in textbooks.

Marie Snyder said...

I fear also that this is just the beginning for global pandemics. We have to figure this all out and maintain solidarity. Looks like Biden is in the lead, which might prove that we're unable to learn anything from the past.