We are getting a pretty good look at what a rapid transition to green energy would look like if we ever act to slow down the looming apocalypse. Of course, we are in one now because of the trifecta of coronavirus, climate change, the sixth mass extinction, and predictions of both the flu and coronavirus erupting together in the Fall.
Because the world is in lockdown, fossil fuel emissions are down and nature returns to urban areas across the earth. But when it comes to the civilization that humans have built and it’s interaction with nature, can a reduced carbon footprint allow our planet to heal?
The fossil fuel industry will fight to their last breath to protect their profits. That is a fact. If tRump is defeated and actually leaves the white house willingly, perhaps we can create a sustainable future by acting on our enlightened understanding that all life is intertwined with every other living creature on earth, including contagions.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts weighs in on the issue as fossil fuel use plummets.
There is no doubt that these lockdowns are hitting the fossil fuel industry. With fewer drivers on the roads and planes in the air, the price of oil has slumped almost two-thirds since last year. Car sales fell by 44% in March, with motorway traffic down 83%. So many more people are learning to teleconference from home that the head of the Automobile Association in the UK advised the government to switch infrastructure investment from building new roads to widening internet bandwidth.
This is potentially good news for the climate because oil is the biggest source of the carbon emissions that are heating the planet and disrupting weather systems. Some analysts believe it could mark the start of a prolonged downward trend in emissions and the beginning of the end for oil. Others strike a more cautious note about the fuel that has dominated our lives and polluted our atmosphere for the past century.
“The drop in emissions is global and unprecedented,” Rob Jackson, the chair of Global Carbon Project said. “Air pollution has plunged in most areas. The virus provides a glimpse of just how quickly we could clean our air with renewables.” But he warned that the human cost was too high and the environmental gains could prove temporary. “I refuse to celebrate a drop in emissions driven by tens of millions of people losing their jobs. We need systemic change in our energy infrastructure, or emissions will roar back later.”
SBS Language | Himalayas visible for first time in 30 years as pollution levels in India drop https://t.co/0zN18YXE6S— Sergey Minaev (@sminaev2015) April 21, 2020
This is what is happening in the United States and elsewhere. Oil company executives have lobbied Donald Trump for a bailout. Under the cover of the crisis, the White House has rolled back fuel-economy standards for the car industry, the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped enforcing environmental laws, three states have criminalised fossil fuel protesters and construction has resumed on the KXL oil pipeline. The US government’s massive economic stimulus bill also included a $50bn bailout for aviation companies. Environmental groups are urging the UK and European Union not to do the same.
Good read, the Global South should not let the extraction industries back into their countries.
Charlie Gardner of The Conversation writes that the pandemic is not good news for the world’s tropics as local economies collapse, migrants leave the cities for the countryside, as a result, the exploding population pressures already threatened ecosystems in this part of the world.
The difference lies in how people respond to the economic shock of losing their livelihood. Social safety nets are a widespread feature of many industrialised economies, keeping the poor and vulnerable from destitution, and the importance of the welfare state has never been more obvious than during the pandemic. In the UK, for example, the government’s furlough scheme guarantees that people unable to work will receive 80% of their income. But citizens of many low-income countries simply don’t have such back-up from their governments, leaving them incredibly vulnerable. For many, the forest and the ocean will provide their safety net.
Exploiting natural resources is often the only option for the destitute. Wild animals, fish and forest trees are rarely owned by anyone, and they are found in rural areas where policing is difficult. What’s more, there are often few technical barriers to exploiting them – you don’t need a degree to be able to wield an axe. So, when people are left with nothing, they can always find something to eat or sell in the forest.
I saw this first hand in a decade spent living in Madagascar, which is rich in lemurs and other unique creatures, but is also one of the world’s poorest nations. My research has shown that when Malagasy people lose their source of income due to climate change-induced natural disasters, they often turn to natural resources to make ends meet. Farmers suffering from drought may head to the forest to produce charcoal, or to practice “slash-and-burn” agriculture. Others head to the coast to fish, but lacking the necessary skills and equipment, they rely on destructive techniques like poison fishing. The impacts can be devastating for biodiversity.
In India, millions of migrant workers have lost their jobs in cities and returned to their family villages, a mass movement of people not seen since partition in 1947. A similar thing is happening in Madagascar too, as it is throughout Africa and probably much of the tropics. Nobody knows what impacts this unprecedented rural exodus will have, but it is clear that many more people will be finding themselves poorer, hungrier, and much closer to exploitable wildlife than they were a few weeks ago.
With lockdown in process across the state of Maine, native fauna have begun to return to their habitat here in Portland. This photograph from the @PatriotCinemas Nickelodeon on Temple St.— Heath Miller (@veryheathmiller) April 16, 2020
Nature finds a way. pic.twitter.com/Gq1bL9ZRT1
I haven’t seen any similar poll in the states but I suspect some good will come from the contagion for the planet. Working from home eliminates so much CO 2 that is pumped into the atmosphere. Hopefully, we will never go back to the way it was before.
Only 9% of Britons want life to return to “normal” after the coronavirus outbreak is over, a survey suggests.
People have noticed significant changes during the lockdown, including cleaner air, more wildlife and stronger communities.
More than half (54%) of 4,343 people who took part in the YouGov poll hope they will make some changes in their own lives and for the country as a whole to learn from the crisis.
Mr MacMillan said this was especially apparent when it comes to food, farming and the countryside.
He added: “Alongside the emergency response, it is important to keep track of these changes in what we’re doing and our collective mood, to help shape the kind of country we want to be, including the way we want to feed ourselves, when we recover from this pandemic.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, said that while it was right the immediate emergency was the priority, “we must use this time to imagine a better future”.
He said: “This poll shows that the British people are increasingly aware that the health of people and planet are inseparable and it’s time for radical environmental, social, political and economic change.”