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Farah Theodore
Farah Theodore

For decades scientists and climate activists have implored fellow humans to refrain from activity that is deleterious to both our human and natural environment. Alas, the deception of neoclassical economics lead many to pursue the path of business as usual and que sera sera. Though many vehemently opposed air travel restrictions to curb CO2 emissions, lifestyle changes and even reducing consumption of red meat, the novel coronavirus like a thief in the night forced the world to grind to a halt where people felt helpless in the face of the invisible monster.

2020 was cited as the year where any decisions made by governments will set the world on an irreversible course that at present could rob future generations of a habitable planet. Many recent reports indicate the impending disaster is exacerbated by lack of political will to effect real change. As a result, some are of the view that COVID-19 is a warm-up for climate change.

This pandemic, the first major incident since the 1918 Spanish flu, has revealed the gaps in both local and global systems. There is a general complacency where the response is not proportionate to the magnitude of the risk. Similar to climate issues, basic data remains unheeded because it hasn't triggered action the way a crisis such as coronavirus does. Furthermore, this pandemic isn't as unexpected as some would believe. There has been sufficient research available to bring attention to the possibility of such events occurring and the need to be prepared. Funding of key departments and areas are vital to initiate proactive preventative action.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-general of the WHO since 2017 stated, "As man-made climate change has taken hold over the last four decades, dozens of new infectious diseases have emerged or begun to threaten new regions, including Zika and Ebola...bubonic plague, spread by rats and fleas, is predicted to increase with warmer springs and wetter summers. Anthrax, whose spores are released by thawing permafrost could spread farther as a result of stronger winds".

Though the natural environment experienced reduced emissions for the last couple of weeks, concerns arose of what the inevitable stimulus packages would entail particularly in regards to climate issues. Prof Glen Peters from the Centre for International Climate Research expressed, "I think climate would go to the backburner, I don't think there is much hope that stimulus goes to clean energy".

At present, calls for the younger generation to sacrifice for the older raise the need to mitigate intergenerational impacts of the pandemic such as wealth redistribution and now being the, "time for the older generations to support the decisive action on climate change and on more sustainable, equitable and resilient patterns of development that many younger voters desperately want" as suggested by David Steven and Alex Evans in an article they co-authored in World Politics Review. They also noted that, we must "look for innovations in the multilateral systems of the kind that are only triggered by systemic crises" and further that "space must be left open for ...priorities in a critical year for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and for the UN Sustainable Development goals, which offer the closest thing we have to a global blueprint for future generations".

The coronavirus is a modern day nightmare and though some consider it similar to the flu others argue is more like chronic pneumonia. Though we don't know precisely the characteristics of this disease, we should resist fear, seek reliable sources of information and exercise personal autonomy by preparing for the impending lockdown and unknown timeframe for the return to any semblance of normalcy.


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