Climate in the Time of Corona

small escapes by franzisko hauser/Flickr

More than ever we need to talk about the climate – and now could be the best chance we get to build a society we actually want to live in, Sonia Randhawa reflects.

The year is not shaping up well. For me it started with fires. Then there was the coup in Malaysia, almost simultaneous with the pandemic.

I am staring at empty shelves in the market and worrying about whether we’ll be able to buy flour and rice and tinned tomatoes tomorrow.

I know the rational thing is to just buy what I need, but my lizard brain is shouting at me to hoard, because I don’t want my kids to go hungry.

On the other hand, my parents seem to think they have superpowers and want to attend international conferences and dither about with their friends rather than staying at home.

I bought a will kit today.

And yet, while the truism is that during times of crisis we see the best and the worst of people, they are also the times when we are most likely to be able to shift society.

And a shift in society, society’s focus, is urgently needed if we are going to be able to withstand the even larger crisis on the horizon, the climate crisis.

Perhaps now is the time to refocus our economy and our society on what really matters – people, not money.

Just as our institutions are failing us during this time of crisis, we witness the heroic efforts of the public healthcare service existing next to the price-gouging of the private hospitals.

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The measured pronouncements of the civil service… We have the people we need to do the jobs that need doing.

But we lack the leadership. We lack the long-term, people-centred focus.

We can change that. We can change that now.

We can and should demand an economic stimulus package that focuses on the real drivers of the economy, the small and medium-sized businesses, the family firms.

We can and should demand an economic stimulus package that is oriented towards the future, with money directed towards moving us towards zero emissions and drawdown.

Imagine if the money that was being injected into the economy was going into a huge programme of solar installations on all public buildings, on homes, on businesses. Malaysia is one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels in the world. So let’s stimulate those enterprises here at home, kickstarting installers and lowering how much households spend on electricity.

We could improve food security by actively assigning spaces for growing food in our urban peripheries. Each school could have a food garden, as many did 30 years ago, and each school could have a kitchen gardener to oversee the cultivation of healthy, fossil-fuel-free food for our kids.

We could inject money into trees rather than urban growth. Employ foresters and indigenous knowledge-holders from the Orang Asli and Orang Asal communities to care for our real wealth, our rainforests.

And we could grow seaweed for plastic-substitution, for food and for drawdown, as well as regenerating our oceans.

The pandemic is terrible. I’m worrying about the safety and health of my scattered family. I’ve lost my paid work. My partner’s job is looking increasingly precarious.

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But there is work to be done. There is a future to imagine, and now could be the best chance we get to put people first and build a society we actually want to live in.

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