Coping with Covid-19 in a Climate Change World
Until now, I have resisted making what is, after all, the obvious parallel between the unfolding climate change crisis and the exploding global pandemic we now know as Covid-19. I suspect there is a human limit in the number of existential crises we humans can cope at any one time.
Coping, Climate, and Covid-19
The very idea of coping is suddenly a topic of interest in a world suddenly bereft of stability and the one thing we had that kept most of us housed, clothed, and fed; that kept the wolves at bay; that tamed untamed nature - the economy.
Not the economy of rising and falling indexes, but the economy that brings us toilet paper, flour, hand-sanitizer. The economy that allows artists to tell us their stories and help us understand the world, the economy that allows human flourishing. The unseen economy that hummed along as we thrilled at the prospect of a Dow Jones Industrial Average flirting with 30,000.
We knew it couldn’t last. Even the most bullish understood that. It was an economic Faustian bargain, the delusion of limitless growth and unceasing expansion. Climate change threatened that delusion, but has yet to destroy it. Then along comes a virus and, in mere days or weeks, the fantasy is brought to its knees.
Forced to sit still and think about it for a few weeks drives us mad. We run to old superstitions, angry gods, fearing a vague unnamed malevolence from which our once busy lives shielded us. We even entertain the idea of human sacrifice, if it will placate the angry gods of a battered economy.
You mean, right now?
Before the beginning of March, I felt that climate change was an accelerating threat with impending social, spiritual, and economic impact. I still do. How we respond in the coming few years will determine the course of life on this planet for centuries to come.
Even as the strain on our natural systems eases in the wake of human idleness, we have an opportunity to imagine a reset button as we emerge from this pandemic. We can at least resist allowing Covid-19 to become an excuse to accelerate the damage.
Covid-19 is at once a cautionary tale and a live-fire test on how we learn to cope on this planet. We must resist all that is innate in us that would pull us from the challenge.
Determination and resilience must not give way to hubris. Self-reflection must not lead to despair and spiritual isolation. Fear must not succumb to suspicion, superstition, or hatred.
We must keep our hearts open, our minds clear, and our hands washed. Then we can “work the problem”.
If we do that, we will be that much more prepared to cope with climate change once we emerge into the new normal.