Remembering the environmental crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic
Tipping points are defined as “thresholds of profound changes in natural or social conditions with very considerable and largely unforecastable consequences. Tipping points are processes of discontinuous, and at times disruptive, change. ” Timothy O’Riordan
See Review of Addressing Tipping Points for a Precarious Future by Timothy O’Riordan,
As we face a Corona virus pandemic the shock wave affecting all of us gives us a direct collective experience of our oneness and interconnectedness. While we are share our vulnerabilities, fears and uncertainties, we are also discovering new ways of being – alone and together. We share acts of compassion and possibly discover a longing for a deeper sense of self and community. However, while we face the same storm, we are not all in the same boat, with the same means and resources of recovery and survival. As a fast moving crisis, it has lessons for our approaches to the underlying injustices- the climate crisis and social inequalities.
This is a wake up call. It reveals to us the fractures and challenges in our relationships with each other and the earth which supports us. Is this a crisis or a gateway to the creation of new consciousness so that we can live more sustainably and in harmony with the earth while dealing with our underlying and urgent social issues? What lessons can we learn from this pandemic in preparing for the challenge of the climate crisis? Could it be a tipping point in our understanding of our interconnectedness?
At a WCCM Australia Earth Day Gathering the question was asked:
“What will bring about a radical change in our relationship with the earth?” We could not have imagined it might be a pandemic such as we are now experiencing.
Meditation has the power to change our consciousness but to transform the world we must first transform ourselves.
Fr Laurence Freeman says:
In meditation, when we awaken to the deeper dimensions of who we are, we sense our connection with the living earth, the cosmos and each other and we know that that vision requires us to work together to transform the world through a new consciousness.”
Global environmental leaders such as Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, wrote recently in Time :
“In fact, I believe the last few weeks, as terrible as they have been for so many people, have taught us crucial lessons that we needed to learn in order to enter a new era of radical, collaborative action to cut emissions and slow climate change.”
The crucial lessons, she writes, include:
- Global challenges have no national borders.
- As a society, we’re only as safe as our most vulnerable people.
- Global challenges require systemic changes — changes that can only be activated by government or companies, but they also require individual behavioural changes. We need both.
- Prevention is better than cure.
- All our response measures need to be based on science.” She also expresses the hope that what we have regarded is “normal” will not come back. “Healing means growing into a larger awareness of what’s right in front of us, such as that we are one. Rather that needing an “other,” we need one another.
What could give guidance towards a new holistic way of being and doing, recognising the inter-connectedness between environmental sustainability and social justice?
Oikos is a powerful ancient Greek word meaning a ‘household’ which could us give guidance towards a new holistic way of being and doing, recognising the inter-connectedness between environmental sustainability and social justice.
In English we derive the prefix eco from oikos and three very powerful words result – ecology, economy and ecumenism. Ecology refers to the laws that govern a household; economy to household management and ecumenism to shared values. Interactions between these three aspects are critical to balancing and managing a good ‘household’.
In recent times, we have seen that the prominence given to the economy has led to imbalance resulting in unsustainable growth, unfettered consumption, social imbalances leading to the destruction of our ecological networks which sustain us in an interconnected web of relationships.
Our challenge is to find an awakened contemplative understanding of our interconnectedness and to bring together the threads of ecumenism, economics and ecology on a global level. Our challenge is to remake a new sustainable world and to restore the balance. Just as a healthy body depends on the health and harmony of each individual cells, so too does the collective body of life on earth depend on the harmony of each living thing.
The current crisis creates an opportunity for the individual and the collective to make the changes needed to address the global challenges of climate change in the face of fragmenting national interests. Already, as the peak of the health crisis from Covid-19 appears to be passing, the developed countries are starting to focus on the collateral social and economic damage to their own countries and international cooperation is fragmenting at a political level.
Environmentally, through the pandemic, we have experienced a significant fall in emissions, the benefits of cleaner air, less pollution, and a slower lifestyle as the economy too slows down. Some have felt the fear of uncertainty. Others, the need for a new kind of green capitalism. Overwhelmingly, there is a call to create a better world – not a return to “normal’.
The COP26 meeting due to be held in the UK in November 2020, regarded as critical in addressing action on climate change, has been postponed until 2021. This postponement comes in the face of a stark warning given by more than 11,000 scientists that the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis”.
Published in the Journal BioScience on the 40th Anniversary of the first climate change conference in Geneva in 1979, the scientists warn:
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”
“To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
“The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
Have we learnt any lessons from the pandemic? How can we create a better world and not return to “normal”?
So we call on all to contribute to this challenge, individually and collectively.
Janet O’Sullivan is the Meditatio International Coordinator for the Environment. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org