The New Normal

As Covid-19 restrictions ease across Australia The New York Times covers the front page with 1000 Covid-19 death notices as a tribute to the 100 000 Americans to fall victim to the disease. Unfortunately, South America is now the new Coronavirus ‘epicenter’ highlighting the disease's alarming ability to spread at speed. 

Amongst the devastation Covid-19 has also given hope that the world when pushed, can take collective action to stop its spread. Through a collective approach we have acted against Covid-19, can we do the same for the Climate Crisis?

The response to this health crisis will shape the direction of the climate crisis, as governments ease restrictions and reboot the economy through stimulus packages with a push to return to ‘Normal.’

Right now is a crucial moment, we have a chance to map our way out of the job and economic crisis created by COVID-19 while addressing the climate crisis at the same time. Sadly, in Australia our Government is proposing a ‘Gas-Led Recovery’ underwritten by Australian taxpayers.

                                           

As a country we should be commended for how we have handled the coronavirus crisis, we trusted expert advice and scientific evidence. We listened to epidemiologists and medical professionals, and practiced physical distancing, quarantining, and adopted good hygiene habits. We now have an opportunity for a ‘New Normal.’

"We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature." Sonya Renee Taylor

Covid-19 exacerbates inequalities that already exist in our society with the most vulnerable; low-income families, young people, elderly people, those in regional and rural areas, and First Nations people suffering the most. This is also true of climate change.

If Australia and the world choose not to face the climate crisis, the impacts of a warming planet will continue to cause escalating damage to our lives, businesses, and the environment. Damage that expert scientists tell us will ultimately be worse than what we have already seen this year.

Instead of a ‘Gas-Led’ economic recovery, we should invest in measures that simultaneously cut greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience, while creating secure sustainable jobs.

We do not have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment. – Denis Weaver      

We need to move away from oil, coal, and gas to Renewable Energy. Now is the time for bold government investment to drive our economy into the future. That is why it is of great concern that the government is using the coronavirus as a cover to push fossil fuels.

The Guardian recently reported that a letter to the environment minister Suusan Ley, from Nobel prize-winning immunologist Peter Doherty and the epidemiologist and former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley are among 180 professionals who have warned the government that Australia’s “failing” environmental laws will fuel further public health crises.

“Planetary health leads to our health. In the end, it leads to better economies and more cost effective ways of providing energy,” she said.

“We should be talking about investment in society, investment in environment and biodiversity. It’s an investment, not a cost. The cost comes from not doing it.” Fiona Stanley

They’ve called on the government to use the once-in-a-decade review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act to strengthen environmental protections and acknowledge the importance of a healthy environment to human health.

There are some other promising signs with institutional investors forcing three of the four big banks to pledge to stop lending to thermal coal projects.  

Do we want things to go back to normal? Or is there a better kind of normal? One that works for us all. 

The question is are we really waiting for a return to normal or are we ready to build something different?

 Illustrations via Jess Harwood