The circle game: Covid-19, climate and change

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Our sick Earth. (Image: Sarah Grice via Flickr)

The Covid-19 pandemic has called on each of us to respond in ways most of us never anticipated. Likewise, there will be little about our gradual return to our daily lives that will feel normal to us. They shouldn’t either, as medical experts warn that a return to normalcy puts us all at risk.

We know that about Covid-19.

But do we hear this in the frequent warnings about climate change? Do we understand that a return to our normal methods of burning fossil fuels also puts us all at risk? As we contemplate our post-pandemic future, I hope we will show foresight and courage to act in the face of these warnings to counter the dire consequences of climate change. To do this, we will need to weave into our public and personal actions a Page One awareness of the harm we will all suffer if, after our retirement from Covid-19, we revert to our previous consumption of fossil-fueled energy.

Just as getting back to normal isn’t an option with Covid-19, neither can it be an option with climate change.

With virus-like efficiency, the Earth’s temperature rises as the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion invade and threaten human existence in progressive ways. Covid-19 highlights our racial and class inequalities among those most affected by this virus, as these people are also the most vulnerable to the adverse and disruptive effects of climate change. Science shows us how exposure to tiny particles of air pollutants increases the incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and we’ve seen how these illnesses have left the most economically distressed and those in need. color more prone to disease and death from Covid-19.

As this circle of Covid-19 and climate change turns, our need intensifies to insist that our city’s post-Covid-19 transition protect the most vulnerable among us as we rapidly accelerate our abandonment of fossil fuels.

Yes, unemployment is at record levels. Yes, the pandemic has reduced the economic resources of our city. Yes, to the many valid excuses that will be offered to tell us why now is not the time to act decisively and just to create this lasting normalcy for our city.

Yet if we don’t act now, the tipping point of climate change will befall us like this pandemic has. Some will then wonder why, if we knew about these dangers, did we not take action to prevent their destructiveness? In these queries, we will hear echoes today when the scientists who saw global pandemics coming – and warned us – ask us why we haven’t prepared? Children around the world are already asking us this question about climate change.

Author Rebecca Solnit, who has followed human responses to disasters, recently spoke on WBUR’s “On Point” about what constitutes hope in the midst of disaster.

“What I call hope is really just the full recognition of the unpredictability of the future … my vision of hope is a sense of radical uncertainty, with the possibility of intervening, to shape the future, ”she said. Then, applying the wisdom gained from her studies of past disasters, she spoke of the “radical uncertainty” inherent in our current pandemic:

“Disasters shake things up. And the things that we used to think of as fixed and unchanging can suddenly be changed. It was fascinating to see people in power suddenly say, “Well, actually, we can accommodate all these homeless people in hotels. In fact, we can change unemployment insurance and sick leave. In fact, we can find $ 3 trillion to solve a problem.

“You know, that feeling that all of a sudden everything can be so profoundly different because something terrible has happened reminds us that everything can be profoundly different, maybe not even just because something terrible has happened. is produced. The powerful often scramble to restore a status quo that has worked very well for them. The less powerful often say, ‘Wow, everything has changed. We are not ready to change everything back.

Hoping that the residents of Cambridge are ready to say to our elected officials, “Wow, everything has changed. Now let’s continue. “

Once they hear us, let’s hope they – and we – take action.


Melissa Ludtke is a journalist and author who writes her third book, “Locker Room Talk: A Woman’s Struggle to Get Inside,” and a member of Cambridge Mothers Out Front.

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