By Mark Dunlea
Death stalks us.
Humanity is threatened at both the micro and macro levels. Covid-19. Climate change.
Underlying all of this is inequality, fueled by robber-baron capitalism. And a lack of democracy.
The coronavirus, a threat at the microscopic level. is galloping towards us. It is predicted that as many as half of us will contract it. It is especially deadly for the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Poverty and racism make it worse, a lot worse.
But all of us are threatened.
There is a growing demand for equality in how we help people but the wealthy still dominated the pending federal bailout. The swamp is churning.
The health care crisis has led to a crashing economy. Already unemployment exceeds that of the Great Recession a decade ago. Many workers do not have the ability to work at home, and if they fail to show up for work, they lose their paycheck. Half of America lives from paycheck to paycheck.
At the macro level, climate change has heated up the entire planet. Humans, as allegedly the most intelligent species, have fouled up the living space for everyone.
We are already being pounded by extreme weather. The world’s science committee on climate, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), warns that we have 11 years left to take unprecedented worldwide action to halt global greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists feel that the IPCC – constrained by fossil fuel based countries like the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Brazil – is overly optimistic. An increasing number of scientists raise the risk of the end of civilization as we know it. Some warn about the possible extinction of the human species.
There is an opportunity in every crisis and the deeper the crisis, the better the opportunity can be.
Throughout human history, the powerful have used such crisis to enrich themselves and their friends while crushing public debate and their opponents. We saw this in the present federal economic stimulus package, which did far more to bail out large corporations than average Americans. (For a contrasting approach, see this open letter to Congress for a Green Stimulus.) EPA just announced it was suspending enforcement of many environmental regulations. The plastic industry is using the coronavirus to halt the effort to ban plastic bags, Styrofoam and other single-use plastic.
Sheltering in place has already disempowered many and sidelined critical social movements. Our voices are increasingly absent in the media.
It is critical that the covid-19 emergency response be extended to include a transition to a carbon-free world. We need to set a timeline faster than most presently believe is possible – closer to 2030 rather than 2050. We need to create a world based on the principles of sustainability, while ensuring a good quality of life for everyone, not only in America but worldwide. It needs to include a living wage, a guaranteed minimum income, universal single-payer health care, affordable housing, and quality education. A Green New Deal as I have been calling for since 2010. It needs to redirect our massively obscene military budget to invest in a humane world.
The coronavirus is attributable to many of the same factors driving climate change. A key factor in the emergence of covid-19 is the loss of habitat for wildlife, forcing different species into closer contact than normal, which increases the crossover of viruses from species to species and then finally to humans,
The pursuit of profits rather than the common good underlies the failure of our elected officials to invest in the medical infrastructure needed to respond to such pandemics. The world health community has repeatedly warned about the inevitability of such a pandemic. But even when our governments formally committed to take action, little to nothing happened.
Those same economic forces enabled the fossil fuel industries to continue to burn fossil fuels even after their own scientists told them that runaway climate change would occur. The CEOs were told that while burning fossil fuels was not a sustainable business model, renewable energy would be. The Exxons of the world chose business as usual, focusing on short-term maximization of profits. The companies bought off politicians to allow them to enrich themselves while forcing air pollution on us. not only fueling global warming but killing millions annually through various illnesses.
At least there is some end in sight for the coronavirus (though many cite 18 months until a vaccine is developed to effectively control it). At the moment, there is no end in sight for climate change. Without immediate emergency action, starting with a shutdown of carbon emissions, it will just get worse and worse – heat waves, wildfire, floods. Massive destructive storms, hundreds of millions of climate refugees, wars over food and land, extinction of many species including possibly humans.
We need a climate emergency response – similar to coronavirus – if we want to give our children and future generations a chance of a decent future.
We will best solve the current pandemic if we value the worth of every human being.
Imagine a different world based on equality, not on wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a few.
Then demand it.
We need to create a public debate about how we respond. We need a Citizens Assembly, as called for by the Extinction Rebellion, which empowers normal people rather than politicians bought by the 1%, to determine our future course.
Take care of yourself. Help your loved ones and community. We are all in this together.