Coronavirus presents us with a massive opportunity for climate action. An opportunity to awaken and seriously begin to consider viable alternative economic models integral to a sustainable civilisation
Every collapse is preceded by awakenings and warning signs. Coronavirus is just one of them. And I cannot help but already contemplate the positives that could come out of this outbreak. For those who call me a Doomer, they couldn’t be more wrong. I’m already looking at the bright side of things.
An unexpected CO2 “break”
For starters, and putting aside for a minute the fact that hundreds of innocent people are dying, we have saved tons of CO2 emissions already because of the significant decrease in business activity and energy use not only across China, but across the world. This is really significant actually in quantitative terms, judging from the drop in China’s currency. It is even more significant if you realise that this has happened very quickly, and with minimum loss of life. This level of economic disruption usually only comes with a large-scale war, a cyber attack on financial systems, or other worldwide conflict. In the case of Coronavirus, there is no conflict whatsoever. All of humanity is united against the virus. And the cuts in CO2 emissions from transportation, energy use, consumerism are completely voluntary. For the first time in decades, humanity is making an instant, conscious, voluntary decision to massively cut its emissions. This is momentous. No other world event has ever achieved this. Not the UN Climate Summit, not the corrupt IPCC echo chamber, not the green merry-go-round called COP25 and certainly not Davos. Some predict we could see a big drop in world GDP this year if the virus spreads across the world. Could this amount to the 8% drop per year in CO2 emissions that we absolutely need to have per year, if we are to stay within a survivable temperature range? It would be a great start.
A Rehearsal for Degrowth?
If the disruption from the virus is significant and long-term, it may be the impetus for a new way to organise our trade, transportation and travel global system: making it more lean, efficient, less wasteful. As the world slowly recovers from the virus, it may decide to keep some of the benefits of the disruption: more working from home, fewer business flights, less shopping, more local products, and a crackdown on wildlife meat markets that sell endangered species for human consumption. This is the shakedown that we may need to kick-start the debate that we need to have about degrowth, an issue which so far, along with depopulation, is largely taboo. It is untouchable. This needs to change.
But I have not even gone into the best bit yet. Despite warnings from Boomer economists about the dangers of degrowth, and how it will be a disaster, we may find that a drop in GDP is accompanied by a growth in GNH, Gross National Happiness. More working from home, more home cooking, less shopping, and people finding meaningful things to do that do not involve blind consumption and waste.
A nightmare for The System, a big win for humanity
But some others do not want us to be happy, because happier people consume less. But most importantly, the happier we are, the less vulnerable we are to manipulation. The less likely we are to fall into “fear traps”, into the type of fake news scaremongering that Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism uses to corral voters into selecting extreme leaders.
The Virus is an opportunity for all of us to rethink of our existence on a personal basis, and it can truly be a life-changing opportunity for us to make decisions about our life we would not have thought about otherwise. I am thinking of all the Wuhan residents stuck in their apartments. They are having tons of free time to think, and awaken, to go through their fridge and use what is there rather than throw it in the bin. This is time that is not taken up by shopping, working, falling asleep in The Dream that Humanity is Unable to Wake up From. They are having time to think about what is important: health, family, the more basic things in life that are actually free, and which also happen to come with a zero carbon footprint.
But what may be an awakening for them, is a nightmare for all the companies that want to sell them products, and all the governments that want them to fall deeper and deeper into a consumption sleepwalk that further spirals our CO2 emissions and keeps the System going. The monastic life of quarantine will undoubtedly make some of us realise that we do not need many comforts to be happy. We do not need to consume, to chase after the next promotion, the bigger house, the gas-guzzling SUV. This is really a nightmare for the 1%. What will they do to keep us asleep?
to be continued..