Friday, March 23rd 2040
As you well know, yesterday marked the first day in centuries when the net amount of carbon emissions produced by humanity was zero.
Even just two decades ago, this would have been inconceivable. I remember well the despair and the hopelessness that we all felt – the feeling that nothing we did, would ever be enough. We were wrong, of course, and I’ve never been happier to admit it.
The coronavirus really was the crux. It was a time of great uncertainty – indeed the only certainty was uncertainty. As activists, we did not know what would happen as regards climate. There was plenty of talk of the future, but in the end we were so focused on the present that we almost missed the opportunity for change that was afforded us. The coronavirus redefined the paradigm and fundamentally shifted our way of viewing the world.
Most importantly, the coronavirus highlighted the fragility of our place on Earth. We had lived for centuries believing wholeheartedly that we were gods, limited not even by the sky. But in truth, this stifling, dogmatic belief in our superiority was our greatest limitation and our greatest weakness. By disregarding all that wasn’t ours – the beauty and the awe-inspiring nature of the natural world, the advice and wisdom of our forefathers and indeed anything that wasn’t reaching for the stars, despite the ground beneath us sinking, we lost sight of what truly mattered, and wound ourselves up in knots trying to solve the problems we created with the same implements that created them
The massive social, economic and political upheaval that followed in the wake of the worst pandemic in a century reshuffled the world order. People began to truly realize how broken that old system was. This was the most crucial aspect and reason for our success – the clamour for change that came from the people. The coronavirus brought recognition of the fact that the old order was truly flawed and broken, and brought the stark inequities of it into sharp relief.
In the wake of crises such as these, there is always a void, an opening of sorts. Thing must change; nothing less will satisfy people – but what shape will that change take? We feared at times that the reactionary populists would be victorious, but capable, competent leaders stepped forward when they were most required and presented the kind of visionary change that was desperately needed and desired for.
The political measures that were put into place in the aftermath of the crisis were only possible because of the refusal, by the vast majority of the populace, to roll over and accept the injustice that had existed before. The collapse of the global economy was almost catastrophic – governments across the globe planned to bailout the polluting industries that threatened our very survival, and it was only by raising our voices that we were able to put a halt to it. The incredible technological and societal changes that have taken place since then were almost entirely created by that simple decision – to not prop up the decaying old order.
Raising our voices wasn’t enough though – some things we needed to change ourselves. Old habits die hard, and you’ll occasionally hear a moomer – the term we use these days for millenials – wistfully recalling the time when you could hop on a plane and be wisked away for a weekend. Of course, the high speed rail we have now is faster and more affordable than any flights would have been, and no one truly wishes for a return to the past, but people have always been wont to complain and remember the “old days”.
However, we must also remember that the pandemic was one of the darkest chapters in modern human history. It brought out the worst in us – the irrationality, the spread of fake and misleading information, the blatant disregard for public safety and the gaping holes that were left behind in families and
communities across the globe. But it also brought out the best in us – the stories of song emanating from the streets of Milan and Madrid, of the doctors and nurses working tirelessly to save, of the scientists decoding our worst nightmare are by now legendary.
Our hopes and dreams were reborn out of that ash of deep despair – there are some many lessons to be learned from our successes, and so many more from our failures. But remember – while things may appear static on a day to day basis, all of a sudden everything has changed. If we make the conscious decision to shape that change, to decide how we would like our world to look like, we can accomplish the impossible and build something better.