The widespread spread of the Coronavirus, which started in one city in China and spread rapidly throughout the planet, had at least the merit of making everyone understand what climate change had made few people understand. And that is that we all live on the same planet. The problems can in no way be circumscribed by borders that only exist for politics. Nor can they be militarized. Not even by building walls. The world is one and humanity, beyond any nationalist rhetoric, is also one. All the peoples of the world are interconnected. And so is the economy, culture, thought, migration, problems and emergencies such as this pandemic that has spread rapidly from China to the whole world. But not only all humanity is interconnected. We are also interconnected with the environment around us. As Ferdinand de Saussure said, “Tout se tient”, everything is connected. This is the first commandment of modern ecology.
The Coronavirus and the global fears it has unleashed has confronted us with a reality that, when and hopefully soon the emergency will be overcome, can no longer be ignored. This, climate change – the other big issue that affects the whole planet – had failed to make it understood, despite the undeniable commitment of environmentalists, scientists and charismatic figures like our Greta. The questions, of course, were asked in a different way. The perception of individual risk, in the case of the virus, is much more immediate and natural, as well as considered closer both in space and time. Even the behaviors that are asked of us to overcome the emergency – avoiding contact, staying at home, often washing your hands, etc. – are much easier to perform than the actions that are asked of us to stop Climate Change, that is to change lifestyle, give up fossils, build a new economy. Or, if you prefer simpler and more direct words: bring down capitalism. You will realize that “washing your hands often” is an easier action to take!
“We need to radically review the current model of production and development, which is environmentally unsustainable, because we are destroying the planet’s biodiversity and wildly exploiting natural resources,” environmentalist Grazia Francescato pointed out in a nice interview published in Vita – But it is also unacceptable on a social level, because this type of globalization has caused an economic inequality never seen before (8 people in the world have more economic resources than half of humanity). In short, it is a matter of promoting what we environmentalists call ‘ecological conversion of the economy and society’, which also means making a cultural leap, creating a new collective consciousness.
Are we really sure that, precisely on the assumption that “Tout se tient”, the explosion of this pandemic has nothing to do with climate change and, consequently, with capitalism? Many scientific studies point out that sudden changes in temperature and related parameters, such as humidity, tend to favour the “species jump”, that mechanism by which the virus is transformed and transferred from an animal species (the bat, in the case of Covid 19) to humans. It is not yet certain in what percentage, climate change and temperature increase affect this mechanism, but a correlation is clear. A research by Giuseppe Miserotti for the association Medici per l’Ambiente has linked the explosion of the latest epidemics, from Sars to Aviaria, up to swine flu and the current Covid 19, with temperature peaks, at least 0.6 degrees above average, recorded in the areas in question. Even if we consider the most optimistic forecasts of global warming, there is little to be happy about! In circulation, says Miserotti, there are billions of dangerous pathogens, both in animals and frozen in the melting permafrost of the now former “eternal glaciers” of the poles. Pathogens that could be triggered precisely by rising temperatures.
But even without bothering Climate Change, it is no mystery that pollution attributable to fossil fuels kills even without causing extreme weather events. We cite, in this regard, only the most widely accepted research of the Medical Society Consortium, which highlights how known direct pathologies attributable to the consumption of fossil fuels combine at least four and a half million people every year! One wonders why we are so concerned about the Coronavirus! But even in this case, “washing your hands often” is an easier, more easily communicated and calming answer than “bringing down capitalism”.
But, some say, the spread of this pandemic has at least had the merit of reducing, if not capitalism, at least greenhouse gas emissions. The skies of China – which I personally have never been able to see blue – have never been so clean. True. But that’s not good news. Antonio Guterres himself, Secretary General of the United Nations, has stressed that it is only a temporary phenomenon because the activities that caused the pollution have not been closed down and, already now that China has come out of the emergency phase, they are recovering with greater vigor, as if to recover lost time and money! Let us not delude ourselves, explained Guterres, that the virus is helping us in the fight against climate change. On the contrary, the risk is that the pandemic will invisibilize the issue of Climate Change and distract public opinion from the real great battle that humanity must fight to save this planet where “Tout se tient”, from the climate, to epidemics, to social justice. And this time no one will be able to tell us that it’s enough to “wash your hands often”.
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