Confirmed cases continue to grow at an exponential rate, supermarkets are running out of food and the greatest ever economic crash is somewhat Hollywood movie like. However, it is an opportunity to understand what many communities of indigenous backgrounds have understood from time immemorial: We are all in fact, connected.
Our germs, our economies and our human relationships have very limited degrees of separation between one another. Practicing altruistic interdependence in this current pandemic might just be what can support life and living.
The prevalence and spread of the disease is exacerbated by the climate crisis which disproportionately impacts the poor. Likewise, the coronavirus is kicking off an economic downturn and impacting those without insurance or access to health care. This shows the impact of the climate crisis on marginalised communities.
The virus makes everyone that little but more vulnerable to the increasing effects of the climate crisis. The climate crisis is subsequently a threat multiplier, as is Covid-19.
Those who are already facing the impacts of climate change, will be faced even harder by the growing pandemic.
Similarities between the virus and climate change both cause the same effects on the people who are most vulnerable. The people who are hit hard by both come in the form of: Low income, homeless, undocumented and people with a disability. These groups of people all experience discrimination from healthcare systems. In addition, migrants and refugees who experience forms of xenophobia and deportation will suffer. People who are incarcerated are already climate stressed and will be exposed to greater risk of infection.
The injustice of our economies has come into acute perspective since the rise of the pandemic: from increased slave labour in Hong Kong prisons due to a depressed workforce, to the bad treatment of migrants. It amplifies how the ecological crisis compromises public health. Those without clean drinking water to clean themselves or even something as simple like washing their hands to those with poor respiratory health because of pollution.
In Seattle, a motel has been converted into a quarantine site in a low income community that was not consulted about the decision. Just like the communities who have experienced with extractive industries.
On the other hand, people benefiting from both Covid-19 and the climate crisis are those at the helm of disaster capitalism. We are seeing glimpses of this with the stimulus package in the US bailing out the highest emitting companies and devastating social security.
The crisis surrounding the climate consolidates power, both by who can and who can’t adapt and who receives the resources to respond.
Most energy systems are designed for profit rather than the well-being of the consumers. As the tell-tale signs of disaster capitalism appear in the rise of the pandemic fear (such as mask and medicine scams) we can learn from communities like the ones in Puerto Rico who are choosing community care over corporate credos.
The surprising truth that has somewhat been downplayed over generations has come to light – the speed in which governments can change in the face of a crisis and quickly. Millions have found ways to work from home, collaborate across sectors and provide healthcare in ways which previously were frowned upon and deemed impossible. Covid-19 is the best case for universal healthcare and climate justice solutions that promote community togetherness.
GCJM (Grassroots climate justice movements) are building the political power and self-determination of communities across the globe. This makes them better equipped for pandemics such as this one. A rise in community sovereignty means fewer people are displaced and made more exposed to disease, thus more people can sustain good health in place.
In Northern California after the last few years of extreme fires, long-running climate justice community groups have built good response networks. For the elderly, those with disabilities and the homeless, mutual aid is the response and is now being activated in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the many catastrophic impacts that the climate crisis has, it is not a question of if pandemics will occur, but a matter of when. We will be judged on the manner in which we, as a race, will respond. In our state predominantly based on fear, will we hoard and exclude? Or will we embrace and cherish our dependence on one another and choose action collectively? I think we all know the where the better outcome is.
Optimistic minds are saying this is Earths wake-up call. The coronavirus is exposing our broken leadership and igniting new ways of caring for each other and the planet.
Credit: Lindley Mease – Director of the CLIMA Fund – Climate Home News