Jacki Brown: The link between coronavirus and the climate crisis

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As clever and evolved as we humans are, we are a selfish and arrogant species. We have a plethora of scientific journals and books that prove without question that we need to severely limit our carbon dioxide emissions within a very short amount of time in order to avert catastrophic consequences to our global ecosystem; yet we continue to reproduce, to produce, to consume, to dispose, to drill, to burn, to pollute -- more and more and more and more.

Many in America have looked at their retirement accounts or their stock portfolios and reveled in the booming economy. But this has been a misleading snapshot of the health of the country. With the unfathomable pandemic we are now experiencing, we know how quickly money can evaporate and security can be lost.

Some of us bring reusable bags to the grocery store, buy organic cleaners, and compost our food waste thinking if only everyone did these things we would all be okay. Sorry friends, that is great, but it is an infinitesimal drop in the proverbial bucket. We need to do so much more. And soon.

Fortunately, we have some scientists, journalists, environmentalists, and concerned citizens who are relentless in their efforts to inform us of our untimely demise if we do not act immediately despite low or no pay and ridicule from those who are further up the food chain. But we do not listen to them.

As one of the few politicians who foresaw the dire consequences if we didn't change our ways, Vice President Al Gore outlined the horrors that could happen with inaction in his 2006 book and documentary aptly named "An Inconvenient Truth." Turns out the solutions he proposed were much too inconvenient for Americans, or the world, to embrace.

So, what does this all have to do with the more eminent threat of the coronavirus?

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I believe that this planet is too perfect to have formed without some sort of divine creation. And as females are the givers of life and the nurturers of all living things, God is naturally a female deity in my mind. I call my god Mother Nature. She is kind yet at 4.3 billion years old, she is angry. She has given all creatures this abundantly wonderful gift called Earth, and unlike the millions of other living species on Earth, we humans are disrespecting, even destroying our planet.

Global warming, uncontrollable wildfires, flooding, the melting of polar ice caps! These have been our wake-up calls, but have we woken? No. If not directly affected, most of us haven't done much about these devastations beyond sending thoughts and prayers on social media.

We haven't taken the climate crisis seriously because the threat does not seem real and those who we count on to guide us aren't steering us in the right direction. Our politicians don't want to disrupt the economy, celebrities don't want to give up their lavish lifestyles, CEOs don't want to miss a buck, preachers just don't preach about the need for environmental salvation, and our parents tell us that everything is gonna be fine.

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Unfortunately, few people other than Greta Thunberg and a few thousand of her smartest school-skipping teenage friends bother reading scientific journals or go to poorly funded environmental websites to find the truth. Few people know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in its 2019 report that if we don't limit the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2030, we will destabilize the climate causing irrevocable destruction.

So, something really big needed to happen to wake us humans up.

The coronavirus scares the hell out of me, not because I'm afraid to get sick, but because it is creating a dystopian nightmare. And every day thus far, it gets worse. First school closings, then restaurants, hotels, parks, beaches, now all non-essential places of business closed in many regions and mandatory self-isolation and quarantines. The economy has collapsed and I won't be surprised when the internet gets overloaded to the point of blacking out. And of course, there are the deaths. It is unreal. And it is forcing us to change our lifestyles dramatically. Not just some of us, all of us. Just like with the chaos forthcoming due to the climate crisis, if we don't take drastic actions, we are all in this together — no matter your place, your status, or your political affiliation.

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While this viral pandemic is far from over, and taking its toll on many in a multitude of ways, it is teaching us valuable lessons: we are willing do what we are told if we realize it's in our best interest; we can act quickly; we can reduce consumption despite our initial survival instincts; we can take care of one another; and I think we will see, we can move money and shift manufacturing to accommodate our most pressing needs.

This is Mother Nature's desperate attempt to wake us up, to make us strong, to make us appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, to bring us all together across oceans and political divides, and to make us take the actions we need to avoid irrevocable destruction of our one and only planet.

As I write this while unexpectedly sequestered in Florida, crickets are singing in the backyard, an opossum just crossed the lawn. Flocks of birds were going about their usual business today. There is an aquarium in Chicago where people were shut out yesterday, so the staff invited the penguins to tour the exhibits. It was quite surreal to see a video of penguins walking through an aquarium while us humans were stuck in our cages.

I guess we all have to accept our punishment for now, for taking this sacred planet for granted. We need to take lessons from the animals who are enjoying the lack of pollution us homo sapiens aren't currently creating. Enjoy nature, don't take more than you need, look after your tribe.

It's going to be a hard decade. First the virus, then the environmental crisis. With some smart politicians, inspiring leaders, and a new sense of cooperation, priority and purpose, we can get to the other side. And like any good mom, Mother Nature will help us if she sees us trying.

Jacki Brown is a resident of Jamaica, Vt., currently sequestered in Florida. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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