CLIMATE CONNECTIONS: COVID-19 and climate health connections
The purpose of this ongoing series of articles on Climate Connections is to move beyond the arguments around our climate chaos and to find area we can agree on. You may not believe in the climate issues of today … but you may be concerned about the use of plastics and the oceans. You may also be concerned about air and water quality. Whatever you want to call it, the planet needs our stewardship. The writers here will share their perspectives from many angles. Perhaps some or all will resonate with you, and bring to our awareness the necessary actions we can take. We will leave the arguments and differing beliefs to others.
— Marilyn Nyborg
Repercussions are heard and seen around the world from both the coronavirus and climate change — same processes in different time frames. The virus called climate degradation has been moving slowly for 30 years or more, and only now are we seeing major impacts. Thanks to the current shut down of life as we knew it when we could zip all over all the time, air pollution has reduced dramatically in a very short period of time.
The virus mostly attacks the respiratory system of people. So does air pollution. During the shutdown, statistics show that there are significantly lower levels of air pollutants and warming gases since carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped as a result of less fossil fuels burned. Air pollution also affects plants, animals, and environments. Some air pollutants harm plants and animals directly. Other pollutants harm the habitat, food or water that plants and animals need to survive.
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According to a report in The Guardian, air pollution is linked to significantly higher rates of death in people with COVID-19, possibly because of compromised lungs. The coronavirus is teaching China an expensive lesson in public health: there is a huge cost to poisoning your air. The UN World Meteorological Organization’s new Climate Report “points to a threat that is greater to our species long term than any known virus.”
Now we get a clear picture of what our environment could be like if we made a few conscious changes to lifestyle. In this more self-reflective time, we could ask, “What really matters? What do I want my life and my environment to be like as we start to rebuild our lives and the economy post virus? What am I willing to change to make things more healthy for all under the sun? Using what values and principles?” Now is our time to start over differently in a way that will hold the balance of the health of life on earth and Earth itself. The International Energy Agency describes this as “an historic opportunity to advance clean energy and break from support for the fossil fuel industry.” There is a balance to be had here that keeps the economy going in a cleaner way. New technologies are already coming up and will provide new jobs.
What about all the other viruses that have slowly crept into our society and are threatening it? Like inequality, racism, over consumption, huge waste, hyper-individualism, and threats to our democracy?
This is a unifying time for the collective consciousness to form its intentions to live into. We can take authority over these viruses by taking a good long conscious look at how we have been living, and what we can happily change to keep the Earth and ourselves healthy. Let’s put Earth first. Everything we have is derived from the resources of the earth. If given the chance to start anew, why wouldn’t we want to create a more sustainable, renewable, and resilient economy and lifestyle?
Doing any less will risk another existential global crisis, one for which there is no vaccine.
Shirley Freriks is a member of the Elders Action/Climate Action Networks helping to bring climate solutions awareness to the Nevada County and beyond. She lives in Grass Valley.
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