Covid-19 and cli­mate change – will we learn our les­son?

The Wokingham Paper - - LESIURE - Dave La­mont www.Cur­ PS – I apol­o­gise that I had to take a break from this col­umn for a short while. Life has been some­what of a jug­gling act but I’m de­lighted to be back. Thank you to Phil and Wok­ing­ham.To­day for keep­ing my page warm for me.

THERE has never been a time when more peo­ple are out of touch with the nat­u­ral world than now,” said Sir David At­ten­bor­ough in Jan­uary last year.

Just 18 months later, look where we are. In the midst of a global pan­demic that many ex­perts have at­trib­uted in part to our “lack of re­spect for na­ture” and to the “wil­ful destruc­tion of our planet”. And, they warn, there will be more to come.

Renowned nat­u­ral­ist Jane Goodall warmed re­cently that “hu­man­ity will be finished” if we do not change our ways. Planet Earth is sick and we, hu­mans, are the virus.

Has the river al­ways been that clear? Is the sky bluer than it was be­fore? Are the birds and bees louder than nor­mal? Ques­tions that many of us will have posed or been asked while en­joy­ing time in the gar­den or a re­lax­ing walk in re­cent weeks. For the best part, the an­swer is that na­ture is as it was. Beau­ti­ful. Breath­tak­ing. But frag­ile.

The dif­fer­ence is we have been af­forded

(or taken) the time to no­tice it.

As a fam­ily of four, one of the high­lights of lock­down proper was watch­ing the Blue Tits nest­ing in our gar­den feed­ing and tak­ing flight for the first time.

A pre­cious mo­ment we’d have al­most cer­tainly missed in an un­changed world.

Sim­i­larly, I was re­minded of the strange new nor­mal we have all had to get used to when stand­ing on our doorstep and look­ing out just a few weeks ago. Some­thing caught my eye in the sky... It was a plane.

I stood for a mo­ment and stared. I re­alised that it was the first one I could re­mem­ber­ing hav­ing seen in per­haps two months. An ev­ery­day event had be­come an ex­tra­or­di­nary one.

As the Covid-19 cri­sis gath­ered pace back in Jan­uary, the en­vi­ron­ment was the dom­i­nant topic at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos.

The likes of Earth Day, World En­vi­ron­ment Day, World Wildlife Day, Global Re­cy­cling

Day, World Wa­ter Day, 30 Days Wild and even Bat Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Day (a tougher sell this year) have since come and gone. And the Cop26 cli­mate talks, due to be held in Glas­gow, have been post­poned un­til 2021.

The cru­cial ques­tion is, have the past three months taught us a much needed les­son and brought things to the fore in a way that the events above could never hope to? Have we be­gun to re­con­nect and to fall back in love with na­ture?

Re­search shows that many more peo­ple are walk­ing, cy­cling, vis­it­ing green spa­ces and gar­den­ing now than prior to the pan­demic.

We are, of course, trav­el­ling far less and in some cases dif­fer­ently, swap­ping far flung hol­i­days for time at or close to home, shop­ping lo­cally and learn­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate what we al­ready have as op­posed to (of­ten) buy­ing what we don’t need.

Fast fash­ion has slowed, fac­to­ries have stood still and new car sales have plum­meted, with oil prices reach­ing his­tor­i­cal lows.

We are a long way off turn­ing the tide in the fight against cli­mate change but let us hope that we have be­gun to dip a toe in the re­treat­ing waves.

This year will un­doubt­edly con­tinue to teach us much about our­selves and about what re­ally mat­ters.

It is our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to do our home­work, to fur­ther em­brace th­ese lessons and new habits, and to leave old ones be­hind as nor­mal­ity grad­u­ally re­merges.

Sir David re­cently ex­pressed hope for the longer term, say­ing he felt that “the na­tions of the world are be­gin­ning to see that our sur­vival de­pends on co-op­er­a­tion.” He tem­pered this by point­ing out that the pan­demic has “swept cli­mate change off the front pages” and that “we’ve got to get it back there”.

Let’s make that hap­pen.

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