The way the world has been able to mobilise itself and shut down in the blink of an eye to properly respond to the coronavirus is proof that political leaders actually do have the ability to make rapid change happen if they want. So where is that rapid response for the climate crisis? For years, climate justice activists have been calling for immediate action on our climate emergency. And for years, that action has not taken place. Scientists have said that we have less than a decade to completely transform how our entire economy and world runs,transitioning over to renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. Yet we continue to plow ahead with business as usual, paving the way toward a future of extreme weather events, mass displacement, disease, famine and death.
That’s not hyperbole; those are the predictions and ﬁ ndings of experts who have devoted their careers to this issue. So when we’re in the middle of such an existential crisis, why have there not been coronavirus levels of shutting down and completely rewiring our society?Every time I meet with lawmakers and tell them that we need rapid transformation to halt climate change, they tell me “change that fast just isn’t possible.” But the COVID-19 world response has proven that rapid change and disruption of business as usual is possible! What would it look like when the world actually decides to take on the climate crisis?
It would look like what we’re seeing right now. Media coverage of the issue 24/7. Consistent headlines about updated death tolls. Experts appearing on the news daily to update the public on the crisis. Everyone stopping everything and putting the world on pause to deal with the immediate crisis at hand. The coronavirus response is showing us how people can mobilize and do their part when it is properly communicated to them that we are indeed in an urgent crisis.
The parallels are not exact, and the world COVID19 response is not a perfect template for how the world must mobilise for climate justice. Many vulnerable people are being left behind in the coronavirus rapid response, and our just transition away from fossil fuels and factory farming must make sure no one is forgotten. And a global rapid response to the climate crisis, unlike the isolating quarantine required to curb the spread of COVID-19, could be joyful. We could call for the rapid creation of jobs in new renewable ﬁ elds, training workers to transition from fossil fuel jobs to clean energy jobs and mass reforestation projects.