Our biological, economic and environmental minefield ...
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
My point of inspiration for this piece was Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discussing why we listen to the scientists and (the majority of us) take great personal and national responsibility re COVID-19 mitigation … but are not as receptive nor personally and nationally diligent re the environment.
Immediacy obviously plays a part. Having people die on our watch is a great prompt to take care of ourselves and others. Government top-down messaging and policy-making also has an impact that has been present when managing COVID but strangely lacking regarding environmental care.
Maybe the discrepancy relates to those generations that are affected. We know COVID is kryptonite to the aged and those with heath conditions; the contagion’s victims may die and denial is not an option.
In contrast, environmental degradation caused by climate change will have greatest impact on our young. The likes of Greta Thunberg and her contemporaries are demanding action but they do not have the direct political clout of a vote. Though growing numbers of us are waking to the approaching ecological nightmare – unlike Australia's management of COVID, where the economy and immediate health issues are being juggled to find that sweet spot, the same cannot be said about the management of our environment. This juggling, the policy-making that will lead to the use of alternative fuel resources and the commercial and personal elimination of many environmentally damaging behaviours just isn’t occurring. Is it because the potential of an individual struggling to breathe/drink clean water/eat non-contaminated food in the future may just not be as persuasive as the immediate threat of the death of our parents or loved ones?
I was introduced to another reason that we may not see the urgency of climate action by a friend (brother actually:). Possibly, as a species, we have distanced ourselves so far from noticing the 'signs’ of alarm in our environment we just don’t get it … We don’t immediately notice the loss of other species nor the loss of biodiversity unless someone – usually a scientist – points it out to us. And with regards to the environment, the messaging of our scientists have been so discredited by a combination of (some) media, governments and vested commercial interests it would be difficult to know who or what to believe.
Concreting our blindness to the natural world, the majority of the world’s population now live in urban environments. The homes in our urbanised world are able to control temperature and create artificial lighting and we can easily be oblivious to seasonal change let alone environmental ones. We no longer need to eat, dress or adapt our behaviour seasonally. Globalisation and industrial supply chains allow us to eat grapes mid-winter and consume seafood though we live 100's of miles inland. We can likewise adjust the temperature within our homes into a pleasurable climate bubble, or travel the world to chase apring in winter or a ski trip in high summer.
Further, our tampering with nature has left us vulnerable to the creation and international distribution of human assisted horror zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, AIDS, Ebola, swine flu and mad cow disease.
One of the mantras at my place of work is that it takes millions of dollars and years to build a dam but only a few hundred dollars and less than a week to install a water tank. Personal responsibility in relation to environmental degradation is just as urgent as is the need to wash our hands and wear a mask, even if the outcomes of our lack of action are not so immediately noticeable.
Unlike Greta, we do have the political clout of being able to vote our politicians in and out of office. Because of this, our politicians will always pay attention to their electorates demands ... and the top down management of the environment will follow.
And interesting listening: