There are many similarities between the Corona crises and the climate crises. But there is 1 difference: there is no vaccine against climate change, after which we can pick up where we left off. That is more or less the first lesson or observation that can be drawn from the corona crisis.
And that leads directly to a second lesson: we cannot continue where we left off after that. The climate approach was already trying to change that pre-corona situation. On one of our walks in the park this year, I saw a nice poster that expressed this perfectly: “We can’t go back to normal, normal was in fact the problem:”
Climate more or less requires some form of permanent lockdown.
Now, in the midst of a third lockdown, and on the eve of the vaccination (in the Netherlands, we are three weeks behind…), I want to list the lessons for the future from the past quarantine year. Also as an annex to the previous contribution, in which I tried to look 20 years ahead, towards 2040.
In the first lockdown period in particular, I described in a series of blogs what was going on and where I saw similarities with the climate crises that we are “still” in, and will become much bigger, possibly accompanied by even more pandemics … Because the pandemic is another consequence, just like climate heating, that can be traced back to the same causes. This has been convincingly demonstrated in various scientific publications this year.
And just like man is a organism that can get a fever when ill, and whose immune system comes into action when the organism is threatened, its similar with the earth: It also functions as a large organism. That currently has a fever, the temperature is rising, and the corona virus is actually the defense of the earth’s immune system. One’s threat is the other’s defense. And I know who wins if that is brought to a head.
So it makes no sense to focus on Covid-19 and think that if we have a vaccine for that, our problems will be solved: “We have defeated nature again , or at least controlled nature”. On the contrary. It is just reacting to symptoms, the pandemic is one of the many effects – “plagues” – that we are going to experience as a result of defying the entire organism that functions here on Earth. We are constantly infecting our own living environment , the overarching earth body. Compare it with the how people can threat their own body: extensive drug use, obesity, excessive sugar and fat intake, inactivity, exhaustion, unhealthy air in the form of particulate matter, soot, etc. At a certain point the body gives up. The same with the earth: pollution, depletion, land clearing, pesticides, fossil obesity, etc. Leading to cracks in the organism: droughts, storms, fever, smog , salt disease (salinization of land), the defense mechanisms come into play.
Covid-19 is just yet another signal that we are defying the system. And that mainly affects us again.
The urgency is really high. In my book I started with the statement: “the world is on fire”. There was some scorn about this, but in fact it is happening: All CO2 that we emit, directly or indirectly, has the same effect as if, as Ugo Bardi describes in his book Extracted, we started a huge fire 100 years ago, which still rages on. And constantly pumps smoke and CO2 into the air. We have not extinguished that fire, we are even strengthening it. We don’t see it, it happens hidden in engines, boilers, industries, its kind of controlled fires, but all together we burn down and heat up the world. Last year we had a lot more actual-uncontrolled fires on top of that, even forests above the Arctic Circle were on fire.
What is actually the key issue here? That we are going to live without fossil fuels. And that is not only the solution to our energy problem of course: without fossil many other problems also will be solved: we will no longer have the energy to process and distribute raw materials on a large scale, for instance. The environmental impact will decrease, and we will plant forests on a large scale, giving biodiversity a chance again, for example.
But excluding fossils implies that automatically we are thrown back on ourselves. Because the rest of the world has the same problem, all countries are inhabited and have their own troubles, need their own resources. And that brings us to experience and lessons from the current pandemic: it was clear from the beginning that how we organized society was hugely insufficient to cope directly with the problem , that is our lifestyle and its organization.
Just look what happened in the spring. Our greatest concern was the healthcare-system itself: the hospitals could not cope with it: we have cut back on the healthcare system for years in the belief that it can be more efficient, and still be in control… What could ever happen to us…?.
Since the fewer costs and personnel for vital and basic functions like health care, the more we can focus on production, consumption and growth. But that same growth is actually whats causing the problems, for which healthcare turned out to be crucial. Not only with regard to Covid-19, but also earlier with regard to lung diseases based on particulate matter, with regard to obesity, diabetes, and other ‘modern diseases. Only, a Covid-19 pandemic was needed to make us aware again. And it won’t stay with Covid-19. If I’m honest, I don’t think we can get rid of Covid19, his mutants, or his successors.
The same with regard to the panic surrounding masks and respirators: countries immediately started to take individual measures, forgetting that we no longer arrange anything ourselves, we are depending on global chains of goods, that were interrupted.
That reaction, is exactly what we will also see in the climate crises. Countries that save their own skin, just think of the mouth caps that were not available. And not even produced domestically or in Europe. I saw sewing workshops again, where mouth masks were made in the back rooms, which could be exactly one of the elements in a post CO2 society. more local handicrafts. Oxygen equipment was needed, ordered but not delivered, since claimed by the country where they were produced.
And so we had (have) a 1.5 meter society. But what is also needed is a 1.5 degree society! Imagine yourself what that means, if you have to avoid ‘CO2 contagions’ from tomorrow on. In other words: no longer can spread CO2 emissions. Or let’s say, a maximum of 1.5 tons per person per year, instead of the 10 tons on average now…. The ‘R’ from 1, to 0.15, from 100% to 15%. (and the R value of CO2 is currently above 1, the emissions are still growing …)
The R value of CO2 to 0.15…, then every penny has to be turned around: Do I still heat my entire house 24 hours a day? Do I still go to work by car, or do I work at home? Do I go on holiday abroad, or do I limit myself to local trips and some cycling and walking in the neighborhood? Let alone fly, that is no longer even possible within that budget, aircraft mainly stay on the ground.
Living CO2 free is like living corona free. In the first lockdown this spring, I had the feeling that I was back in my youth, the sixties: On a summer Sunday there was little to do, hanging out with family, playing some cards, getting bored, taking a stroll. Nothing wrong with that, by the way, I grew up happily, but it shows how drastic that is, living without corona and living without CO2. Back to the sixties….(as I concluded in my book, and now it was real…)
Money is not an issue, as it turned out last year, there is enough. The cramp of trying to earn money from climate measures is precisely what holds back the change, we try to innovate until it delivers financial benefits, but in the meantime we achieve the opposite.
As with corona, the climate problem requires immediate action and the release of funds. And if measures cost money and have no payback, then the measures should not be adjusted, but the money system should be changed. Because that is one of the things we can decide for ourselves, how the money system works…
Some clues about how to organize that society a little differently from now on, as I analysed and collected from the articles in the 1st lockdown, could be:
– Focus on and prioritize basic services: starting with health care, education, food supply, etc. (to be summarized as Community Resilience).
– In principle, organize everything as locally as possible, based on your own system potential. In any case, make sure that a local basic supply is always possible, with regard to all sources: water, food, materials and energy. (system resilience)
– make the place of residence and immediate surroundings the center of life and work again, as much as possible. (individual resilience)
That is the only way to prevent us from being caught off guard and trying to survive in a panic. It is also the basis to prevent a CO2 lockdown, there is no vaccine or medicine, except adapting ourselves. And we now know how.
Oh yes, there is one more balance to fix: have a few more betas in parliament, more than the two or three hard betas currently. That is not enough to maintain the balance between what people want and desire and what the system (the earth, the land) can produce and regenerate.