My Turn: Applying outbreak response to climate change

For the Monitor
Published: 3/20/2020 6:00:26 AM
Modified: 3/20/2020 6:00:14 AM

As if a global switch was thrown, the entire world has banded together to deal with the sudden spread of the coronavirus. The common-sense measures being taken by every country, state and city to limit the spread of the virus have been impressive.

There’s a clear sense that we’re all in this together. People understand how important it is to limit exposure while the virus is still spreading. Those not already staying at home with their families anticipate this may soon be the case. As disruptive as this may be to daily life, people are making the best of it.

It’s gratifying to see humanity as a whole take drastic action on behalf of our common survival. Because of unprecedented cooperation on a global level, it’s estimated the coronavirus will peak and then dissipate some time this year.

I didn’t think we were capable of this type of sensible collective action, given our disregard for the even greater threat posed by climate change. The way we’ve responded to the coronavirus is the way we need to respond to global warming. Why is it we haven’t? What will it take for us to finally wake up to this most dire threat?

One would have thought the extreme weather patterns causing havoc globally would have gotten our attention. Or the one billion animals estimated to have died in the Australian wildfires. Somehow these and other continuing unprecedented weather events have still not caused the massive alarm the coronavirus has.

Reasonable people cannot make sense of this. Greta Thunberg looks adults in the eye and asks, “What’s wrong with you?” How can we not see the unfolding natural disasters happening right in front of us?

We are so divorced from the natural world we don’t understand that its demise is our demise. The connectivity that allows us to respond intelligently to a viral pandemic also allows us to deal with climate change effectively. To do that, we have to care not only for our own survival but that of future generations as well.

I hope this virus and the sensible way we’re dealing with it shocks us out of the stupor we’re in about climate change. We need to find the same switch that swept us into action on the coronavirus and keep it turned on permanently to deal with global warming. Now we know we have the ability.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


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