“We disrupt eco-systems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” So argues David Quammen in We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic, New York Times, 28 January. There have been a number of similar articles pointing out the link between human destruction of biodiversity and the prevalence of viruses that cross the barrier between wild animals and humans. I have found it useful to summarise them and so am sharing here in case it is helpful for others also.
Prior to the anthropocene, a daffodil’s message that it was ready to be pollinated might have drifted many miles, attracting thriving populations of bees and ladybirds from a wide neighbourhood. Today a flower’s range is likely to be restricted to a couple of hundred metres, as dirty air dampens their scent and mobile phone traffic messes up the subtle electronic signals that pollinators use to identify and map the right flowers to visit. This and so much more I learned at wonderful ‘Swarm: artists respond to the pollinator crisis’ exhibition at the little Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow this weekend.
A recent blog by my colleague, Luke Sherlock, comes highly recommended by markontour and is well worth a read for anyone still wondering if China is serious about building an ‘ecological civilisation’. Reviewing Barbara Finamore’s recent book, ‘Will China Save the Planet?’, Luke highlights that China’s federal government is quietly delivering something like the Green New Deal that a growing climate emergency movement is demanding in the USA and Europe (and is already being delivered in cities like Los Angeles and New York).
During a London Climate Week event at Chatham House* last week an audience member asked the panel of which I was a member “How are we going to make people pay for climate action?” Given that the questioner had introduced herself as representing the oil company, Shell, my flippant response was that I knew where to start – by taxing those who have done the most to cause a climate crisis, namely fossil fuel companies like Shell. In fact we should tax them out of business, because companies that continue to put short term profit before the continued existence of the human race don’t have a place in a climate-safe world.
Los Angeles’ Green New Deal, which I was privileged to join Mayor Garcetti in launching this week, provides a template for a new era of climate leadership. being of Angelenos. It is a strategy to take forward the whole of society and thus moves climate change from a peripheral issue to the central organising principle of government.
Today and for the rest of the week normal business in London will be disrupted by Extinction Rebellion protestors trying to rouse their fellow citizens to face the climate emergency into which we have sleep-walked. Their tactics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if shutting down a few streets is what it takes to draw attention to the fact that we are now in a battle against the clock to prevent the (still entirely avoidable) destruction of the eco-system that makes possible human life on Earth, then that seems like an entirely rational response to me.
Last Friday I was inspired and shamed in equal measure by attending the huge ‘School Strike for Climate’ in Oslo. “You’ll die of old age, but I’ll die of climate change” accused one placard. “System change, not climate change” read many more. Thousands of children thronged, chanting into the square outside Parliament to try and make their parents’ generation, of which I am a member in denial, wake up and stop destroying the eco-system that enables humanity to thrive on the only planet we have access to.