Every day we are seeing updates about how the world is changing. Seismic shifts occurring globally in the effort to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments around the world have lurched into action and we have witnessed the destruction of our ‘normal’. The way that we lived before has disappeared. And I do not want to see it revived.
Outside our locked-down homes, our new ‘normal’ has affected more than just the human population. We have all seen images of wildlife on our streets and in our usually teeming cities: inquisitive creatures testing out human environments in our absence. The presence of these animals is a powerful visual demonstration of other invisible shifts happening during the lockdown. Studies on air pollution have conclusively shown that lockdown has drastically reduced global carbon emissions over the last few months, leading to significant improvement in air quality in heavily polluted areas. This improvement is reducing the severe threat to our health posed by such high levels of pollution and is therefore saving lives. In the signs of life that are fluttering up from beneath our concrete cities, we can conclude that we have the power to affect huge changes in our relationship with the environment. It is a reminder of nature’s resilience and the blazing proof of our impact on the spaces we inhabit.
It is a reminder of nature’s resilience and the blazing proof of our impact on the spaces we inhabit.
Lockdown has also reminded us of humanity's ability to adapt and to show resilience in the face of crisis. Everyone has made sacrifices and been forced to adapt to protect others. This skill of adaptation and change when required is one we need to remember after lockdown ends: to protect everything and everyone that will be threatened in the face of climate crisis.
‘If we come out of this crisis with all the rickety, fly-blown, worm-eaten old structures still intact, the same vain and indolent public schoolboys in charge, the same hedge fund managers stuffing their overloaded pockets with greasy fingers, our descendants will not forgive us. Nor should they.’ Philip Pullman
Instead of returning like eager children to the familiar comfort of old worn habits, we must create new ones. Working from home just one to two days a week will cause a marked reduction in emissions and pollution. Many companies in the past have not allowed this, however, now that so many companies have successfully functioned during lockdown, there is no reason a change in company policies cannot keep emissions lower after lockdown ends. Not only can emissions from local travel to and from work be reduced, but if we also refuse to ignore unnecessary travel half-way around the world for meetings that can take place over Zoom, we will be taking another step towards swapping out old, unhealthy habits, for the ones we need to continue coexisting on this planet.
Instead of returning like eager children to the familiar comfort of old worn habits, we must create new ones.
Pullman is right: our problem in many ways is not us, it is not the people reading this article and looking at this website, it is not the people losing sleep thinking ‘what can I possibly do about a problem that feels so huge I can’t even see the edges’. Our problem is the people who run our countries and refuse to recognise that they must change, the company owners driven by greed and afraid of losing profit, the politicians with heavy personal interest in the stock markets not crashing - yet. Our problem is structural. Change can start at the bottom, but lasting, impactful change needs to come from the top. We need to put pressure on those in power to make changes that we can adapt to. As the world is already shifting and changing, this is the perfect moment to act.
Change can start at the bottom, but lasting, impactful change needs to come from the top. We need to put pressure on those in power to make changes that we can adapt to. As the world is already shifting and changing, this is the perfect moment to act.
During lockdown is the time to educate ourselves on the situation we are facing, it is the time to take note: recognise what has changed for the better and what can be left behind. It is the time to question the systems and structures that have knowingly allowed us to sleepwalk to destruction, and to demand new ones. Most importantly, it is the time to decide how we want to be remembered by future generations as we approach unimaginable change in life on earth.
Most importantly, it is the time to decide how we want to be remembered by future generations as we approach unimaginable change in life on earth.
The lockdown has demonstrated with undeniable force the power of our actions, not only as individuals, but as countries and communities coming together to protect those we care about. Whilst lockdown has been forced on us, I hope that as we come out of lockdown we will turn to the other crisis we are facing and choose to make changes. I do not want to see the old ‘normal’ revived. I want to see new habits grow out of this crisis that prove that we as a species, are ready to recognise our responsibility. To the planet, to every other species that we share earth with, to each other, and to future generations who deserve to be protected from the effects of the Climate Crisis, as much as those we have gone into lockdown to protect.
Written by Louder Than the Storm Opinion Team Lead: Anastasia Joyce