The Climate Crisis and pandemics interrelate in multiple ways.
Reducing forests and natural habitats, increasing human populations and agricultural practices exacerbate both Climate Crisis (less oxygen, more CO2) and the risk of global pandemics (e.g., wild animals are forced to habitats in closer proximity to humans).1, 7
Global warming is a risk factor to increase pandemics, because it increases the likelihood that some new pathogen will arise to thrive in a warmer environment. For example, melting glaciers and melting sea ice can release millenia-old previously unknown microscopic bacteria and viruses.2, 9 Climate change has also altered the distribution of some infectious disease vectors and increased heatwave-related deaths. 13, 14
Both Climate Crisis and this pandemic are having disproportionate negative impacts on people of color, economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities. 15, 16
On the other hand, the current COVID19 pandemic is temporarily reducing some of the drivers of Climate Change: We have been forced to fly less, drive less, use less electricity, reduce manufacturing, and sadly, the virus is reducing our population. After the crisis is over, how might we continue to consume less?3
The COVID19 pandemic is also a model for dealing with global crisis badly: If we wait until climate change “feels” urgent, millions of people will die unnecessarily. Wait long enough, and it will be ruinously expensive to “flatten the curve”, if not impossible.4, 8
This COVID19 pandemic can also be a turning point in our history. It presents an opportunity for us to change the course of our private and public policies and strengthen cross-border cooperation. We must channel the $2.2T emergency stimulus funding to the people who need it most, in a framework similar to the Green New Deal,10 rather than protecting corporation profits and the status quo. This would jump start our ability to slow and eventually prevent the climate crisis, as well as make the world more equitable.5, 16
Things we can do
A great place to start is the New York Times 50th Anniversary Earth-Day-inspired Climate Crash Course.6 You can read all seven topics in 15 minutes, culminating with “Is what I do important?” (Yes!)
During this pandemic, all of the UUCC Climate Top 10 are still valid, but while we are isolating at home, this is a perfect opportunity to focus on Top 10 #1:
#1: Advocate and vote for pro-climate and clean energy legislation and candidates.
The most critical thing we can do in 2020 is advocacy, legislation, policy and VOTING. We need to demand oversight of the $2.2T stimulus package so it will be a People’s Bailout5 and enable a Green New Deal,5 rather than be an excuse to reduce EPA regulations and bail out corporations. We must Get Out The Vote (GOTV) and/or UU the Vote, and most importantly elect a President and Congress (and state and local officials) who will wholeheartedly endorse and return the United States to Paris Agreement and fight to slow or reverse the Climate Crisis.
We can make calls, write letters and write checks without breaking the Shelter In Place protocol.
Stay at home also provides unique opportunities for Top #2, #4, #5, #9 and #10:
#2: The single easiest and most impactful action every one of us should have already taken is convert our BGE or PGE electric power to renewable. This simple step can reduce 20-25% of our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) footprint, often costs less, and only takes 30 minutes to do while we are stuck at home.
#4 & #5: Disruptions to our food supplies can help remind us how precious food truly is, and perhaps motivate us to be more intentional about #4 Not Wasting Food. Disruptions in the meat supply, and the news of coronavirus closing meat-packing plants, as well as more time to experiment with cooking, can be the impetus to try more recipes from the UUCC Meatless Monday Cookbook for a #5 plant-rich diet. Food supplies also affect pandemics.11
#9 & #10: Because we are staying at home, most of us are already consuming less. This disruption of our daily lives can give us an opportunity to examine whether we’d like to continue that pattern of less consumption when we get to the “new normal”. We can use our mandated time at home as an opportunity to consider and appreciate what matters most: people, not things. We can also use this disruption to create a new normal where we intentionally Invest Green.12
1. Think Exotic Animals Are to Blame for the Coronavirus? Think Again.
2. 28 new viruses discovered in melting glacier
3. Roge Karma – tragedy/opportunity
4. Covid-19 Sucks. But It Could Teach Us How to Avoid the Worst Consequences of Climate Change.
5. People’s Bailout (Sunrise)
6. New York Times Crash course for 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
7. Comprehensive article on how CAFOs and factory (animal) farms and climate change and habitat loss can lead to pandemic events.
8. Delay is deadly: what Covid-19 tells us about tackling the climate crisis
9. Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief
10. Green stimulus plan can help both climate crisis and economy.
11. Dr. Greger – nutrition and pandemics
12. UUCC Invest Green and Carbon Offsets Forum
13. Confalonieri, U., B. Menne, R. Akhtar, K.L. Ebi, M. Hauengue, R.S. Kovats, B. Revich and A. Woodward, 2007: Human health. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 391-431.
14. Will the summer kills coronavirus? (Washington Post)
15. Extra precautions for racial and ethnic minorities
16. Olsson, L., M. Opondo, P. Tschakert, A. Agrawal, S.H. Eriksen, S. Ma, L.N. Perch, and S.A. Zakieldeen, 2014: Livelihoods and poverty. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 793-832.
These articles apply to all aspects of climate change and the price we pay for our current lifestyles:
Earth Day Quote by Krista Tippett
Being in relationship with the world requires us to recognize a kind of constant and inexorable loss, whether because of climate change or mass extinction or gentrification. Many people shy away from it. Ecological philosopher Joanna Macy understands: “Our difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain,” she says.
But what might come of turning toward this grief, of staying curious about it? Here again Macy offers some guidance: “If we can be fearless, to be with our pain,” she says, “it turns … to reveal its other face, and the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.” For some, like writer Terry Tempest Williams, this connection and love for the world is a call to act in its interest. “The other side of that love and loss is that empathy rooted in action,” she says. “I think it’s about making commitments to do the real work, the hard work, because ultimately that’s where I have found the most joy.”
This year, on Earth Day, exploring our connection to the natural world may require us to turn toward grief. But doing so will also allow us to look past it, with renewed focus on all that’s left to act upon.
Bill Gates Message
In a letter published to his blog, Bill Gates is once again sounding the alarm for emergency preparedness: “As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse,” Gates said. “If you want to understand the kind of damage that climate change will inflict, look at COVID-19 and spread the pain out over a much longer period of time.” Read Business Insider article.
Jane Goodall Video
In this video, the incomparable Jane Goodall describes the links between human behavior, climate crisis and pandemics. “We’ve done this to ourselves.” View Jane Goodall video.