CoVid-19 has transformed our world within such a short time it is stunning. The threat to life was there and most governments acted decisively, and most people complied with the radical changes demanded of them. It is likely that ne result will be a remarkable 5.5 reduction in CO2 emissions this year. Yet people have died in their thousands, so many are losing their jobs and livelihoods: we are likely to be facing the worst economic depression since 1929, people may well go over the edge , reduced to dire poverty, day labourers are already desperate. But climate change is also killing people not quite so obviously, and snatching away livelihoods, more slowly but more surely, and this is destined to get much worse unless we act.
We have a choice, as the Covid tide recedes, to build back better or to return to the world built on frantic consumerism with its unstable supply chains, underpaid nurse and carers, and doing things just in time. Will we manage a much needed system change? Who will get bailed out? Airlines and car manufacturers? With any conditions? It is clear fossil fuels will need to go, will it happen? We need regenerative agriculture, will that be encouraged? CoVid -19 has helped us realise we do not need so much stuff, change can happen when there is a will; we have been revaluing our relationships and the gift of the natural world around us; if we have food and shelter we can appreciate the blessing of birdsong all around us. This is the basis of a systemic change – another vision of the good life where wellbeing is more important than GDP. High wellbeing will be more sustainable if we can be liberated from consumerism. But this also implies that there must be food and shelter for all without exception. And this means prioritising the basic needs of the poor – this message needs to be taken to heart by the better off in particular
We will need leadership, the sort that creates community, a shared vision and a sense of communal responsibility. This has happened quite a bit at the local level during the CoVid crisis. It may not come from governments! There will need to be a check on corporate power for any systemic change to happen. The values of compassion will need to out weight the desire for domination and these values will need to permeate throughout the society. This ideological battle is key if the power of the collective is to be transformational – it has been said the power of the powerless lies in their combining together and groups can really effect change when there is a shared vision. There is now a global consciousness emerging through the internet, the media, news is contagious; the liberating vision of a more equal and sustainable society fostering the wellbeing of all can also be contagious – let us hope! Faith communities can have an important role in this.
Catastrophic climate change and environmental destruction are the ultimate threat to human existence, so why are we so slow to act? We have seen what can be done in a short time. CoVid has shown us it is possible to act decisively. There are many reasons why we are so slow – one is that we have deep in our childlike collective unconscious the idea that we need protection from the wild natural world around us, we are too small to carry our Mother: but we now need to grow up fast and realise that our Mother needs protection. As a result of our childish greed and irresponsibility, playing `King of the Castle’ we have lost our innocence, we have sinned against our Mother…….Another reason is that we urbanites, have lost our emotional connection with the natural world, we are autistic. This connection needs to be restored. Scientific knowledge about climate and the environment is absolutely necessary but alone it is not enough. Through art and music and contact with the natural world this emotional connection must be revivified. Now is the time……….
`May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope’ (Laudato Si 244)
Jessica Gatty r.a. July 2020