If we pander to notions that we shouldn’t sound the climate emergency alarm during inconvenient times or in perceivably inappropriate spaces – whether it be now, during the global Covid-19 epidemic, or in any other public time and space – then we neglect to act with the urgency that the issue of climate change so desperately demands.
Certainly, there are campaign organisations that need to think strategically about the spatiotemporal locations of their campaign actions in order for them to be effective. Moreover, it’s paramount that we sound the metaphorical alarm in the appropriate manner, catering the message in a way that is sensitive and accessible to those who hear it. However, on the whole, the issue of climate change requires campaigners to uncompromisingly speak out about it, whatever the weather. And, if there are comparisons to be drawn between climate change and the present global Covid-19 crisis – and assuming that some of the anxieties relating to the present crisis will have made people more amenable to emotionally engaging with and thus more able to meaningfully reflect upon climate change, a crisis preeminent among all others – then in most cases those comparisons should be drawn and relayed.
Undoubtedly, it’s important for us to recognise that presently many people will be experiencing hopelessness, loneliness or even loss. Hence, compassion and sensitivity to others and their experiences is critical when we engage in climate-related conversations, as is our tone. However, above all else, we must remain resolutely conscientious of our cause, for the impact of climate change is far greater than any present or historic crisis.
With that said, crises present fine opportunities to lobby, to challenge the status quo, to imprint a permanent impression upon those with whom we converse, for in such times one or two people might actually listen to what we have to say. So, if you have added time on your hands – as many people currently do – I would encourage you to talk about climate change. Moreover, write about it. Write to your local councillors (if you are in the UK, you can use this link to direct you to the correct website where you should be able to find contact details for your councillors), write to your MPs, write to your unions, to your friends and relatives. Write to those who have had their fingers in their ears for too long. It’s important that you do this because right now they might just listen.
As a teacher, I’ve written to the National Education Union, together with a handful of my local MPs and councillors. Over the coming days and weeks, I intend to write more.
I implore you to do the same.
“Good afternoon _______,
I hope you are keeping well.
I wanted to send you a short email to further emphasise the urgency of climate change, with the hope that the current crisis will give you and your colleagues cause to reflect and adjust your position.
In our previous correspondence, it was made clear to me that the NEU could not react to climate change without suitable cause. With that said, I could not help but notice the amount of effort the NEU has put into pressuring the government to act on Covid-19 in recent weeks. Undoubtedly the decision to do this was based upon the science, which estimates that if suitable precautionary measures are not taken, thousands of lives could be lost in the UK alone. I would therefore like to reassert that, for the same reason, the NEU has an obligation to pressure the government with as much fervour on the subject of climate change.
In fact, if you compare these two crises, the scientific consensus relating to the climate catastrophe is far graver. The projection for Covid -19 is that 1%-4% of those who contract the virus could die. In response to this, the union has lobbied the government ruthlessly and they have listened, shutting down schools and social infrastructures in response in order to save lives. This has come at a great cost to the economy but fortunately this has been accepted as a price worth paying.
In comparison, the scientific consensus for climate change is that human extinction within just a couple of generations is possible, billions (>12% of the global population) will certainly die, yet the union does nigh-on nothing. Furthermore, the government bends the truth about its response to climate change (https://acstark.net/…/11/19/when-governments-lie-citizens-…/). Contrary to the tone taken with respect to Covid-19, many within and many more external to the government have argued that the actions required to mitigate climate change would impact too greatly upon the economy.
So, it’s quite clear that either something else is at play here which is incentivising the union and the government to act on Covid-19 and/or disincentivising both to act on climate change, or the union and the government do not properly understand the gravity and urgency of the climate and ecological emergency.
My request to you is this: please, pass this email onto your colleagues and superiors so that they can consider their position more carefully. Maybe at this moment in time, they might be more amenable to considering a more appropriate course of action.