Thoughts at the beginning of 2021

Last year I was asking myself, not so much WHAT to say about the climate emergency but rather HOW. We now know the answer: we did it from behind a computer screen …  

With the continuous and mono-thematic drumming about COVID in the background, the best we could do was to draw parallels between the health crises and the climate crises, and learn from them. There are indeed strong parallels between both crises, regarding how we can talk about them and what we can do about them.

VIRUSES are as old as Life itself. On a timescale of millions of years, the “jumping” of viruses from one species of life to another has been important in the evolution and the creation of the biodiversity as we know it. But today, whenever a virus jumps from a wild natural ecosystem to our artificial ecosystem, it is like an attack on our species. Our current destructive way of dealing with what remains of natural ecosystems creates many opportunities for viruses to jump to our species and then spread in crowded cities and through our global transportation networks (see Cat. Nr. 91 The VIRUS).

CLIMATE CHANGE is as old as the Earth itself. On a timescale of millions of years, climate change has been important in the evolution of living species (including humans). But current climate change is going much faster than the natural ones, just as viruses jump faster and travel further than in natural conditions.

In both cases, the reason for this rapid acceleration is our own behavior, embedded in our MODERN CULTURE that makes us believe we can live disconnected from nature.  One difference, however, is that “rapid” climate change still seems decades away, while the “rapid” spread of the corona virus happened in a few weeks. There is a saying in my language: “Those who want everything from the coffee pot get the lid on their nose”. In the case of COVID, the lid has fallen very fast, we got scares and we have reacted. In the case of Climate Change, the lid is falling very slowly, we don’t seem to be scared, but once it is on our nose it will be there for a generation or more.

We have learned, or were reminded, about how to COMMUNICATE crises: their dangers and their opportunities. The message sent might be this one: “We have specific problem and that is the solution”, however, at the receiving end there is a variety of listeners that will interpret and colour the sent message according to their personality, or even more so: according to their reputation.  Some are adventurous others more prudent, some are more altruistic other more egoistic, etc. Our personality will largely determine what each of us will do. Accepting this is and aiming at a range of behaviours that help and solve the crises is more important than trying to force everybody in one kind of behaviour.

There remains a role for EDUCATION, I believe. That is: actively contribute in creating a new culture, in making certain collective issues part of ones personal thinking. It is important to do all this in the public sphere. The question HOW to do this remains and requires continuous experimentation.

And at my age, educating might also mean, helping a younger generation to educate their peers.