Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Al Jazeera, the solution to the Corona Virus pandemic is “planned degrowth” and more government funding of renewables.
The coronavirus outbreak is part of the climate change crisis
Therefore, climate action should be central to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
by Vijay Kolinjivadi
The speed and scope of the coronavirus outbreak have taken world governments by surprise and left the stock market reeling. Since the virus first appeared in China’s Hubei province, it has infected over 700,000 people and killed more than 33,000 across the world in less than six months.
These sweeping and unprecedented measures taken by the government and international institutions could not but make some of us wonder about another global emergency that needs urgent action – climate change.
The two emergencies are in fact quite similar. Both have their roots in the world’s current economic model – that of the pursuit of infinite growth at the expense of the environment on which our survival depends – and both are deadly and disruptive.
In fact, one may argue that the pandemic is part of climate change and therefore, our response to it should not be limited to containing the spread of the virus. What we thought was “normal” before the pandemic was already a crisis and so returning to it cannot be an option.
While some have called for climate change to be just as drastic as the one undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it should not be. We need a just climate transition which ensures the protection of the poor and most vulnerable and which is integrated into our pandemic response. This would not only reverse the climate disaster we are already living in but also minimise the risk of new pandemics like the current one breaking out.
The just climate transition should involve economic reforms to introduce “planned degrowth” that puts the wellbeing of people over profit margins. The first step towards that is ensuring the stimulus packages that governments are announcing across the world are not wasted on bailing out corporations.
We must avoid at all costs a situation where unscrupulous big businesses and state actors are allowed free reign to reinforce appalling global inequality while the rest of civil society is quarantined at home.
We should demand that government funds are instead allocated to decentralised renewable energy production in order to start implementing the Green New Deal and create new meaningful jobs amid the post-COVID-19 economic crisis. In parallel, we should ensure the provision of universal healthcare and free education, the extension of social protection for all vulnerable populations and the prioritisation of affordable housing.
Read more: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/coronavirus-outbreak-part-climate-change-emergency-200325135058077.html
There is no evidence that degrowth would help reduce the risk of pandemics. If you look at the horrific pandemics of the past, like Smallpox and the Black Death, carbon friendly localised energy systems like wind turbines and water wheels were no help whatsoever to our ancestors fending off deadly disease.
Technology, mass production and science is what has saved us from Smallpox and the Black Death.
Understanding of vaccines, mass production and utter determination saved us from Smallpox.
We’re still at risk from the Black Death. Yersinia Pestis is still out there. For now it is under control, thanks to high tech antibiotics and constant vigilance, but if our civilisation ever falters the Black Death will return. The Black Death still occasionally infects and kills people in the USA.
The author Vijay Kolinjivadi also talks about how we are being exposed to new diseases by our contact with animals, thanks to the expansion of our industrial civilisation.
Surely the solution to this type of constant risk, where humans are in constant contact with dangerous species, is to totally eradicate the animals which pose a risk to humans. A Chinese study in 2017 found that the bats which started the current pandemic carry thousands of other viruses, some potentially even worse than Covid-19.
I’d rather a few species of bats or whatever face deliberate extinction, than take the risk of another Chinese Coronavirus pandemic.
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