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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Gift of Corona

Mandy Nolan: The Gift of Corona

What if covid-19 is the solution we needed? What if the lessons we’ve learned from managing a global pandemic can save us from climate change? I hate to be that person who looks for the positive in a bleak situation, because I’m not meaning to minimalise or trivialise the 350 000 deaths worldwide as some sort of collateral damage in our rehearsal for change, but what if their deaths could mean something? What if we learnt. What if the radical changes we’ve made so quickly around the planet form the template for how to move to a new world order – a clean, green and economically-reformed approach that banishes the stain of our carbon footprint to the ether (speaking metaphorically)? What will this world even look like?

In just three months global emissions have decreased by over 26 per cent. If that trend continued for three more quarters, would we be close to being emission-neutral? There were one million planes in the sky around the world every day. That was the case pre-COVID. Right now, one million planes are not in the sky. Sure it’s inconvenient, and disappointing if you were looking forward to a fabulous holiday. No skiing trips to Japan, no summer holiday in the Greek islands, no bike riding in the lavender fields in the South of France. Just you, where you are, right now. We have all been forced to make the changes that none of us wanted to. We have always wanted behaviour change to be someone else’s currency.

Maybe it’s time to stop and smell the serenity! Let’s look at air travel as just one major change in human behaviour globally. In 2018, CO2 emissions from aviation passenger travel totalled 747 million tonnes. Considering that total carbon emissions from all human activity around the world, including agriculture and land use, is 43 billion tons annually, that’s a significant reduction. Couple this with a generalised reduction in car travel and industry, and cities like New Delhi and Seoul are experiencing more than a  60 per cent drop in PM 2.5 – the world’s deadliest air pollutant. Wuhan, where the virus originated, experienced its cleanest air quality on record  through February and March, and LA had its longest ever stretch of clean air, finally meeting the UN’s air quality guidelines.

You see, before the virus came along, corporations had been routinely killing people and our planet with the poisons of industry. Sanctioned by the need for endless economic growth, there has been little, if any, accountability. Forget worrying about the alleged impacts of 5G. Climate change continues to be the greatest threat to human and planetary health.

The same emissions that are killing our planet are also killing us. Ambient air pollution (outdoor) kills over 4.2 million people each year. The World Health Organisation has data that shows nine out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants that lead to premature death.

While I applaud the global response to the pandemic, I wonder, when it comes to climate change, why hasn’t this change come sooner? Every day that the pandemic  restricts industries like travel we move close to economic crisis. The system is not robust. In fact, if the coronavirus has shown us one thing it’s that we live in an uncertain world, underwritten by an economy that at its foundations, and by its very nature, is characterised by fragility, not strength.   

This is something many have known for some time – that the current global economic system is unstable, unsustainable, and at odds with human and planetary health. It’s long been clear that the kind of change required to bring a halt to climate impacts can’t be achieved without a total implosion of our current economic system. It has to break. And this coronavirus might just be the thing to do it.

It’s not just the virus that makes us sick. A thriving economy makes us sick. The economy has been seen as a given. There is a sense that the way it is the way it has to be.

We’ve seen that governments can change. That industry can change. That people can change. In this bleak time of little or no certainty, when I think about the opportunities created by this pandemic moving forward, it gives me hope. Governments have been forced to take advice from scientists, not corporations, or vested interests. Perhaps, if this trend continues after the pandemic is over, then true systemic change is on the horizon. And the good news is, the world is already half-way there. Perhaps in some strange way, that is the gift of COVID-19?

 

 


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14 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Gift of Corona”

  1. Corporation mania’s wiping out people along with the planet.
    Economic spread suffocates the future & disables both
    heart & mind. And yes, if the economy is ‘a given’ it’s also a
    ‘taker’… hypercritical in the extreme. We’ve been fooling
    ourselves for too long, making excuses while waiting for
    someone else to fix it. The stone’s in the middle of the road.
    Let all of us lift it together. Climate Change & COVID-19.

  2. Jak Sayla says:

    I don’t think Rupert would allow that.

  3. Andrew Bennett says:

    Australia is made up of a society dumbed down sufficiently enough to care not for rationality and common sense. I love and agree with what you wrote Mandy, trouble is, as Jak already said, Rupert would not allow that.

  4. Its a wonderful thought and opportunity to change our behavior in a real way in honor of those lives lost to the Corona Virus, especially since the majority were lost due to various forms of ideology and carelessness. That is a mission worth embracing. The climate change challenge is so similar to the cover challenge (exponential spread, lag time, ideological inaction and denial) that it represent another great opportunity to take the greatest opportunity ever – remedy climate change and regenerate earth and society.

    Lets not lose sight of the magnitude of the problem though. We need a centuries long intentional, mature, planned, science and empathy based change of direction – orders of magnitude more and different in essence than an unplanned reduction of emissions for a few months from a forced overreaction to a foreseen but unprepared-for crisis. The pulse of emissions of 1 trillion ton of CO2 we have made into the atmosphere, most of it since we agreed to remedy this in 1992, will continue to cause climate change even if we stop all emissions. Objective science inconveniently shows that even after we stopped all emissions the excess C will only BEGIN to finally leave the coupled ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system after the passage of 70,000 years, and it will take a million years to heal. We have to change our society to close to zero emissions, but ALSO capture and re-store most of the emitted C from everywhere it is now lurking in the atmosphere, ocean and biosphere food chain. Plenty of work for us all, but doable – barely.

  5. David says:

    Is it possible that less people on average have died on a daily basis since the pandemic? Considering only the reduction in air pollution, not to mention the unknown benefits of health and well-being it has brought.

  6. Lisa Apostolides says:

    wonderful Mandy, I do hope people can see the gifts and move towards a new way of living on this beautiful planet.

  7. Barrow says:

    All for a cleaner planet 100%! so the
    The best the left has to offer ! The chosen one ,
    Miss Ardern ,and personally have nothing against her ,until she lectured Australia recently
    Laughable really considering her Government is doing exactly what the NZ Prime Minister is accusing Australia of doing ! Deporting islanders
    Who incidentally have lived in NZ since they were kids !! Not NZ citizens charged with serious crimes
    Out you Go !! Hypocrisy? And dos not end there
    Lectures the world including Australia on Climate change and how all countries could do better to minimise there Carbon footprint ! A reasonable
    Request ? Well yes !! However when Ms Ardern signed up for the Paris Agreement she Excluded
    NZs dairy industry why !! “Do as i say not as i do ”
    “A error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it ” correction? Not anytime soon
    Oh the Irony of the Left !!

  8. Liz L says:

    David, the bushfires royal commission has heard that 455 people died due to smoke pollution with thousands hospitalised – so yes we have already seen more deaths attributable to climate change than Covid 19 over a similar time frame. Hopefully it may sink in that modern science has lots to guide us In terms of identifying and modelling dangerous outcomes and their mitigation.
    For anyone who bothered to read newspapers rather than Facebook, and watch reputable news channels rather than YouTube, the dangers of the novel coronavirus were stark and immediate unlike the more insidious steady progress of global warming. But maybe we have learnt that indeed shit does happen and needs dealing with. There is a price to pay but faced with cooperative effort we can adapt when the alternative unthinkable.
    We can only hope!

  9. Arden invested $25.7 million for “Bio-Technology”.
    in the dairy industry = June 2019 to improve the
    National Herd. ‘Emissions decreased by 11%’
    Without the improvements emissions would have
    been 38%.

  10. Australian & NZers… fought side by side in
    The Battle of Long Tan, Vietnam but apart
    from that both countries, Aust. & NZ, often
    held ‘dual citizenship’. My Aussie sister
    went & worked in NZ & did quite well & had
    2 NZ born sons. I know dozens of Aussies
    who’ve moved from here to there. That is
    my answer, Barrow. The NZ PM’s got a
    head & heart – something our leaders
    lack. 2000 maybe NZers sent back? It’s an
    insult.

  11. Barrow says:

    Yes Stefanie head and heart thats suits her Narrative !! You are not understanding what the point is here !! Yes Australia is wonderful friends
    With our Allies from accross the Ditch ! One of my Kiwi mates is probably the most intelligent person i have had the pleasure to meet !! Ms Ardern on face value seems to be a very nice Lady ! However do not come and preach something that is clearly not
    Within the best interests of NZ or Australia. Her
    So called dressing down of our Prime Minister
    Was a absolute embarrassment Stefanie!! And it was the NZ media that picked her up on this
    Stating the fact that Ms Ardern was infact doing
    Exactly was she was accusing Australia of doing
    Deporting non citizens for serious crimes , islanders who have lived in NZ since they were kids
    Out you go ..and incidentally NZ are not meeting
    Global emissions targets as per the Paris Agreement..

  12. Look it up, Barrow. The Paris Agreement hold the
    percentages.

  13. Missing the points….. don’t think so. It’s all about
    ‘putting women in their place… isn’t it.’ Our PM
    is a bosom-buddy of Alan Belford Jones who
    told ScoMo to stuff a sock down the NZ’s PM
    Minister’s neck. Jones’ attack on Julia Gillard
    went as far as suggesting she be put in a sack
    & downed. Murdoch influences weird men.

  14. Colleen O'Brien says:

    Prior to COVID-19, approx 8 million people died each year from air pollution (World Health Organiation figures) – it’ll be interesting to see how that number shifts as our beautiful planet enjoys clearer skies & air quality (for a while at least).

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