Most people alive today have not experienced something like this before.
As we sit home practicing social distancing trying to “flatten the curve” to save lives and avoid overloading our healthcare systems, every aspect of society seems to have come to a halt.
In this unfolding tragedy, overwhelming numbers of people are getting sick, dying, and experiencing extreme financial hardship.
Except for toilet paper, dried beans, bottled water, and Zoom Video Conferencing sales, our day-to-day economies have largely shut down. Global markets and banks are being held together by injections of huge sums of money by governments and central banking systems, much like they were in the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
In my previous post, “What is Coronavirus Teaching us About Resilience?,” I noted that the fragility of our economic and social structures is being harshly revealed as panic buying overwhelms the capacity of the food and sanitation product supply system. Add to that the acute shortage of essential medical supplies to protect frontline health care workers or treat the critically ill.
Maybe people wouldn’t need to stock up on bottled water if our rivers and our groundwater weren’t contaminated with chemicals from industrial processes, shit, mining waste, pesticides, herbicides, and legacy of other human activity.
Maybe people are emptying the shelves of canned and dried goods because our food systems’ primary interest is not making sure that people are well-fed.
We now see clearly how many people are living on the precipice between barely getting by and going hungry or living on the street. Loss of jobs and income, even for a few days, puts them over the tipping point. Even though the crisis will eventually abate, some may never recover.
The COVID19 experience has shown us in devastating detail, that WE ARE NOT PREPARED for major health, social, and economic disruption. Furthermore, the most vulnerable segments of our population have and will be the hardest hit.
We know from the COVID19 crisis how vulnerable and marginalized the US population has become and how weak our so-called safety net actually is. Our healthcare system, our businesses, and our supply-chains are neither resilient, nor sustainable.
No Excuses, We’ve Been Warned!
When it comes to climate change, there are no excuses for not being prepared. We have been forewarned through valid scientific research and reminded through flood, fire, famine, and massive ecological destruction. The data tells us that if we continue business as usual, we will experience major droughts, extreme heat and weather patterns, crop failure, pests, diseases, further collapse of vital ecosystems, and continued extinction-level events for many species including eventually ourselves. And climate change impacts are accelerating faster than originally projected.
Many people and entire bioregions are experiencing this reality right now. Whether it’s lack of access to clean water, food insecurity, or being on the wrong side of capitalism. The Sixth Great Extiction is ongoing.
We done really fucked things up.
Making the Transition to Regeneration
Should we hope to continue this human journey around the solar system and continue the search for answers to the eternal question, “Why the fuck we are here?” we must immediately begin the process of transitioning our societal infrastructure and economies immediately towards a life sustaining future and infrastructure that supports life.
Conservative estimates set 2050 as the year we must be carbon-neutral worldwide. But our eyes should be on 2030 as a target date completion in places that have the privilege and resources to act. Conservative estimates set 2050 as the year we must be carbon-neutral worldwide. We must work together across every sector of society to make this a reality.
Unless we act now, our Earth might just reject us and heal itself without us, despite our best efforts to exploit and assume control over her gifts. Archaeologists from the next cerebrally-advanced species that takes our place might poke around landfills in underwater New York City, Manila, or Honolulu. Elders sitting around the fire may tell tales of the sickness that befell humans as a warning to their people.
The Silver Lining
As we in the Northern Hemisphere watch the Spring world buzz back to life, the fig leaves spread out towards the sun, and wild plantain grow in disturbed areas, we may in fact at this moment wonder which plants might be suitable for wiping our asses should toilet paper demand continue to exceed supply.
That said, I do believe that we are waking up to, as Charles Eisenstein says, the More Beautiful World that Our Hearts Know is Possible.We have the ability to restore clean water, clean air, healthy soil, and create economic systems that fulfill human and planetary needs and raise the standard of living for all.
We have the ability to build life-supporting, resilient, and equitable structures so that when shit happens again (it will), it doesn’t cause the entire support structures of communities to collapse or impacts to be realized upon vulnerable peoples.
We still have time, but we must act now! We can stay within the critical 1.5° C threshold to prevent planetary overshoot and irreversible ecosystem collapse. Our Earth is resilient still and even in just the few weeks of Coronavirus shutdown has shown signs of cleansing.
Old-growth forests, grasslands, and marine ecosystems are remarkably resilient, containing a complex and diverse web of life that has sustained life through planetary changes for hundreds of millions of years. We can learn from them as we redesign our societal and economic structures to be beyond-sustainable, resilient and adaptable to the change.
We can learn from the indigenous peoples who have been caretaking lands and culture for tens of thousands of years. We can learn from the wise, elders, and the youth. We can learn from fools, jokers, and artists. We can learn from our mistakes, from humility, not-knowing, and from our incredible capacity to understand complexity.
We can make right from what is coming to light.