George Monbiot was on Radio 4's Inside Science yesterday afternoon, hoping that COVID-19 will change how we live so that we come to be more in tune with the realities of climate change. This is from the programme website:
"While the world is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, those who are concerned about the environment are saying that an arguably bigger crisis is being side-lined. Climate change, or climate breakdown, is still happening. Just like the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be the poorest people in the poorest countries that pay the highest price for the breakdown in our climate. But can we learn something from the current lockdown that can be applied to climate change? Can it provide the impetus for us to do things differently. Writer and environmentalist George Monbiot thinks so. He recently wrote that coronavirus is ‘a wake-up call for a complacent civilisation’, and he discusses with Marnie Chesterton whether there is some hope that can be taken from the current crisis."
And here's a very brief extract from what Monbiot said about the virus:
"We thought we were safe; we thought that we had removed ourselves so far from the ferocity of the natural world that we just didn't have to think about it any more, and this has been a stark and rude reminder that we have to think about it very hard indeed ... we have to start thinking about climate breakdown."
I think that it's fair to say that most people never think about the ferocity of the natural world – real though that is; we have been subjected by the BBC and others to endless pretty pictures of cute animals which, if they are threatened, it's by humans and not just because of the natural world's in-built blood-raw competition. And how many of us have put COVID-19 into that context? Or flu for that matter? So, I'd say that we never "thought we were safe" because we never thought about it at all. Clearly we should. More environmental education, then!
Wordsmith that he is, Monbiot offered some fine phraseology, my favourite being: "The bubble of false comfort in which we live has burst".
Monbiot said he hoped that there would be a change in our habit of thought to acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on the wider natural world, and not as secure as we thought, and that this might stick. Wishful thinking, I suspect, as most people will be putting up with what we’re experiencing now because they’ve definitely been told it’s temporary; whereas what Monbiot wants is permanent change. I thought he was asked some challenging questions, particularly about how his favoured policies can come to be in a democracy.
His interview starts around 1.35 minutes into the show and lasts for 15 minutes. Following this, there's a segment on a new "carbon-neutral" coal mine near Whitehaven. As I have a strong family link to the Cumberland coal field, this was fascinating.