17/07/2021

Above all, let's do nothing

3 min
Above all, let's do nothing

The tendency to bury our heads in the sand is as human as it is universal, but the more informed we are in the era of the most scientific and technical knowledge we have ever experienced, the clearer it becomes that closing our eyes to reality is only a childish device to postpone a problem blowing up in our faces.

The pandemic has changed the way we live, relate to each other and work for over a year, but it is not clear that we have learned that it is time to do things differently if we want to avoid the determined march we are on towards ecological and, consequently, economic collapse.

When the covid-19 pandemic was revealed to us in Wuhan, many of us did not believe that what we saw in China could happen in our own country.

When it was in Italy that death spread, we also did not understand that we would follow; and when it was us, neither did North Europeans nor the United States think that the same or worse would come to them. On the whole, few countries acted with foresight and most took only reactive measures. Among us, thousands of elderly people died without oxygen in old people's homes. Alone or, at best, humanely accompanied by a nurse or another health worker.

Despite the four previous waves, the fifth wave has also overtaken us, even though the good progress of vaccination has prevented thousands of deaths.

In recent months science has occupied a central place in the decision-making of most governments, but science is a set of disciplines as diverse as biology, virology, pharmacology, statistics, political science and economics, which have been balanced with more or less success. In this fifth wave, in Catalonia the consequences of the economic paralysis and the effects of the last year on mental health have outweighed the fear of the unpredictability of this virus, which will have the capacity to mutate and leave us snowed under until vaccination is a fact throughout the world.

Acting differently

Covid may be a dress rehearsal for the effects of climate change and we need to be aware of the risks it will have on the way we live. It's not just a matter of changing the taste of grapes and wine because warming changes the ripening of fruit, but of knowing that the rains experienced this week in central Europe or the devastation of Gloria have no mysterious origin but are the effects of climate change. The rains in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland have been of an intensity never seen before and, most likely, public awareness will make the issue a relevant topic in the next elections.

During the paralysis of the economy, global emissions have only been reduced by 17%, and the ecological agenda must gain weight in our societies and in the concerns of citizens and become subsequently imposed on the political agenda beyond green parties, which have always been alert but had a very limited capacity for action.

In Catalonia and in Spain we still need to push for change in many sectors. As with tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, the time will come for smaller meat consumption, however much the traditional parties are frightened by the lobbies' reaction.

It will be citizens who will have to demand a market economy, a capitalism, with environmental, animal and health concerns becoming urgent.

The alternative to acting is the destruction of thousand-year-old ecosystems, which will provoke even more massive migrations of animals and, especially, of people who will flee from deserts or flooded territories.

What can we do?

First of all, we can cooperate. As has been done with the covid vaccine, produced in record time and which has saved millions of lives by putting talent and resources at the service of researchers working in a network.

For the moment, the European Union has a plan, President Biden has come back to the Paris Agreement and China has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. Political elites need to feel citizen pressure to act and each of us needs to change the size of our ecological footprint.

One of the world's best-informed men, Bill Gates, proposes in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Random House) some measures beyond putting pressure on decision-makers. For example, reducing household emissions, using an electric vehicle, eating veggie burgers or working with pioneering companies in adopting innovations. Companies can impose an internal carbon tax, prioritise innovation in low-carbon solutions and advise public research to bring it closer to what the market needs.

Today we are talking about the economic recovery of covid, and it will have to be different from what we are used to. We are beginning an immense social and economic transformation that will leave many industries behind and workers will need conversion plans. The future cannot be postponed.

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