A TALE OF TWO CRISES
By Jeff Stark
There's' a lot of angst free floating around the environmental community these days. After decades of efforts to move the discussions about climate change, loss of species, ocean acidification, large scale air and water pollution and other giant threats we finally made it to the top of the heap. There we were, number one or two on most lists of issues which were threatening us. It looked like decades of diligent effort were beginning to payoff. Finally, we saw movement, some growth in the group consciousness, some reason to be hopeful, even fulfilled. Perhaps most amazing thing was the delightful way we found people lecturing us using facts, and arguments, we had been using for decades.
Then, almost in the blink of an eye, along came this vicious virus. Almost instantly environmental news, views and negotiations appeared to disappear. Liberal TV providers stopped running stories on environmental insults and activities. Right wingers stopped mocking environmentalists and switched to non-stop conspiracy theories from QAnon and other conspiracy theory fear factories. Against this kind of competition the reasoned and rational environmental story did not fare well. Even worse, the sudden reduction in access to environmental news and activity meant a lack of forward motion and environmental progress.
Now the Coronavirus/Codic-19 pandemic has risen to the top of the charts. It is a classic case of the squeaking wheel being the one that gets the oil. Plus, the worldwide virus has a built-in advantage over the global ecology emergency. While the virus is clearly a threat to our ways of life it is not an extinction level event. There is every reason to believe that science will produce therapeutics, perhaps a cure and almost certainly a vaccine. Thus there is an end in sight. This allows us to view the virus as a natural cull of the human race, a godlike scourge that will attack in a universal manner, but also leave the naturally immune and others intact and ready to inherit the benefits of human civilization. Contrast this with the fact that the relatively slow holocaust caused by the ruination of the planet's ability to sustain life. Unlike the virus affliction the environmental catastrophe is, relatively, long-term. It has been with us for decades, indeed more than a century, and has inherited the mantle of the boy who cried wolf. Its effects are only now being consciously experienced by a large percentage of the human population.
In addition, one of the most disturbing elements of environmentalism is that we have allowed this most important of global issues is to become politicized. This means that no matter how authoritative the environmental message is it tends to become lost in the babble that defines the modern "news cycle." Once we allowed this phenomenon to occur, and politicians realized that they could take advantage of the prominence of the environmental "debate,' we lost the ability to actually enlist the majority of our species in our life saving campaigns.
Thus we now face a situation where there is a relatively large segment of our global population living in the midst of our climate emergency. They do without clean water and air, with no connection to the natural world and no idea that what we are experiencing is not the way we should experience our world.
WHAT WE CAN DO
As is often the case the more serious the environmental threat is we can almost every time find an unexpected opportunity. This is certainly the situation now as we struggle to move the environmental agenda forward. For the environmental community - organized citizen and professional advocates, local "pop-up" campaigns and established international organizations now entering their second century of action - our struggle with the virus is helping to create new troops mustering to defend the environment. These "citizen soldiers" come from all segments of society. Most prominent are the poor souls experiencing what promises to be a long period of unemployment. However, taking up to cudgel on behalf of our environmental crisis may soon prove to be the stimulus people need to venture outside their accustomed industries and discover new worlds to protect and defend.
The combined impact of the daily news may also cause many of us to find out how to turn an avocation into an occupation. It will also help to turn millions of people around the world to graduate from their status as "inactivists" into activists. The fact of the matter is that we can engineer a comeback and make the environmental "story" a newly vital and more successful contender for the #1 spot on the public consciousness landscape. We can accomplish this by utilizing the techno/communications capabilities that the virus campaigns have nurtured and propogated everywhere. When we do we will have taken a giant step towards increasing the worldwide awareness we need to succeed.
There is room for all of us in this fight and no shortage or opportunities to turn our idle time into victories. Our Resources section below should give all of us a productive way to begin our search for the eco-saviors that have been waiting for us.
For those of us that are comfortable taking an active role in this global crusade here is a Google search for "Activist Environmental Organizations"
The environmental movement is global. Here is the result of a Google search for "International Environmental Organizations"
Is it possible that the virus and the environmental crises could become one giant supercrisis?
For those of us who are old school and prefer measured but undeniably effective methods check in with the World Wildlife Fund.
Ready to kick a little butt and save some whales and humans? Click here for a look at what Greenpeace is up to.
In order to be effective the environmental community has to be able to lobby US and foreign legislators. Check out one of the most experienced and effective public interest groups -- the Citizens Climate Lobby.