With the half way mark having been reached in lock down, I find myself reflecting more and more — about the amount of bird life I seem to be hearing (Land and Nature), the gratitude of our having a garden to do the Mzansi Marathon Lockdown Challenge (Land and Nature again), the fact that shops now close at 6pm rather than 8pm (and remember were only open on Saturday mornings once upon a time, at weekends) — and how nice that must be for employees to go home at a more reasonable hour (Local Economy, Health and Happiness). And how lucky I am that I live close enough to the shops to walk there when I need to (Travel and Transport). However, I’m also having time to read up on some profound global views on our current situation and learn more about the pandemic’s link to climate change, politics, psychology and the impact it will have on the economy.

Is this global pandemic just the tip of the iceberg?

As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, many scientists believe the Corona virus outbreak might be just the tip of the iceberg. Another opinion in a prominent media house is that the pandemic is part of the climate change crisis and climate action should be central to our response to it. Yet another international climate correspondent agrees that climate change has lessons for fighting the Corona virus, that ‘demands aggressive action to minimize loss’. Yet despite scientists urging world leaders for years to bend the curve of planet-warming emissions, the latter have continued to increase, with high intensity events like floods, wildfires and heat waves becoming all the more prevalent. One climate economist has even call the virus ‘climate change on warp speed’.

Politics and Psychology

Politics and psychology play a role, with change being hard when there is powerful industry blocking it e.g. in the USA, the only country in the world to have withdrawn from the Paris Accord despite being history’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. And as humans, we are perhaps bad at thinking about tomorrow — and ‘that makes climate science, which deals in future probabilities, hard to process and hard for us to be afraid of’. We are evolutionarily wired for the ‘here and now’ — with a prevalence of ‘instant gratification’ now being the norm. Decisions that require planning for the future are sometimes hard to make, even if the future isn’t too far away e.g. the Arctic is on track to be ice free in summers in 20 years, researchers say, while the Amazon rain forest could turn into a savanna in 50 years. And I quote:

Scientists have repeatedly said that global emissions must be reduced by half over the next decade in order to keep average temperatures from rising to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, from preindustrial levels. A failure to do so is likely to usher in catastrophes as early as 2040, including the inundation of coastlines, worsening wildfires and droughts e.g. the crippling drought in Cape Town in 2018. Yet those warnings don’t spark much policy change. We are not told to do the climate equivalent of coughing into our elbows. We are not discouraged from flying. Instead, sales of sports utility vehicles soar. The Amazon burns so more soy and cattle can be produced.’

Economic Revival Post-Pandemic

There are scarier statistics still, with certainly Africa’s realisation being, as in this current pandemic, that the poor and most vulnerable in society, will bear the brunt. The big unknown is about the effort to revive the global economy after Corona virus — will it accelerate the emissions of planet-warming gases, rather than avert climate change? That seemingly will depend on whether the world’s big economies use this moment to enact green growth policies or continue to prop up fossil fuel industries. If there is one thing this pandemic is teaching us, is that we need to demonstrate international cooperation as a way to deliver meaningful results.

Perhaps a more positive article puts forward helpful suggestions about what governments can do, to avoid catastrophic climate change. Radical ideas like phasing out fossil fuel cars by 2040, as in the UK, Germany, Norway, France and ten others; providing worker training to replace lost jobs with healthy, well-paying jobs in the renewable or energy efficiency industries; and requiring buildings to be energy efficient and fossil fuel free. Pie in the sky, for Durban? We hope not. Durban together with C40 Cities has now published its 1.5 degree climate action plan and eThekwini’s Integrated Resource Plan both make bold statements such as by 2030, 40% of Durban’s energy should come from renewable energy (RE) sources, and by 2050, the aim is for carbon neutrality, i.e. 100% of energy from RE sources. A Roadmap is being formulated about how we get there and the need to work cross-sectorally has never been more apparent. Mapping of these documents on www.oneplanet.com will assist in doing this most easily.

Writing a New Story

For years we have been speaking about the need to change, to reassess our priorities, to challenge our own assumptions about the future. Many have been hard at work (including Bioregional!) doing just that. However, many more in the world are now thinking in silence and even more are speaking forcefully out loud addressing what will we be doing after the pandemic. One thing we know, it will not be business as usual. It is now up to us to write the new story that will be our future. We know One Planet Living can help to do this.

Maresce and I are still at work — so if now hopefully might be a good time for you to update your One Planet action plan, or indeed craft one, please do contact us. We are happy to arrange online calls to take you through the platform and show you some of the new versatility that has come on stream. Thank you to those who have been working with us already.

In the next few weeks we will be sending out themed newsletters focusing on one principle at a time, which we hope you will find helpful. Now, more than ever, is time to get our house in order — I think many of us have a sense of this.

In the meantime my downtime is back to filling my eco brick with non-recyclable waste (Zero Waste) — while fast realising to say ‘no’ in the first place, to non-recyclables, is far preferable (Sustainable Materials). I am offering to shop for those ‘oldies’ I know in my area as I hope might be helpful to them (Culture and Community) and trying to shower even more briefly (Sustainable Water) after my great exercise regime. Fortunately my solar geyser works well on these lovely sunny days without the need for electrical back up (Zero Carbon). I may even get in the garden soon to attempt some more veg planting for the coming winter (Local and Sustainable Food) and am enjoying our family’s plant-based forays in the kitchen (Gamechangers recipes to be recommended!). Less screen time, rather than more, is optimal I know, but Sustainable Brands has put together a list of 12 highly recommended documentaries to entertain and educate you during your next few weeks of house arrest — which certainly I will be dipping into.

I am enjoying my continuing reflection about all there is still to do …. and the part we all must play. Let’s keep talking …. we need to now more than ever.

Part of the ‘One Planet Cities’ project, funded by KR Foundation, with five cities piloting an online platform to make sustainability action planning easy.