Earth Day 2020: A Convergence of Crises & Possibilities
We hope this email reaches you in good health. The last time we wrote you was late February, before the world was so profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. During this era where nationalistic sentiment and divisive leadership has given many in our movement great cause for anxiety, I am struck by the evidence of love and hope that this tragedy has highlighted.
Two things have touched me deeply in this challenging time. One is the understanding that we are all only as secure as the most vulnerable amongst us; in fact, none of us is immune to catastrophic events. The health pandemic has drawn attention to the need for global and universal responses through coordinated governments, companies and individuals. It is simply the only way to survive and emerge.
The second is the incredible solidarity of humanity to tackle this crisis through small acts of selflessness, such as the kindness shown by communities in supporting isolated elderly people, and larger sacrifices, like the courage shown by healthcare workers throughout the world. Although I feel far too dependent on online technologies, I’m also grateful to remain united and connected with many collaborators, friends, colleagues and family members from a remote spot in Costa Rica, from which I write to you now.
This email is an update and an invitation to join us, so we can harness our collective energies during this unprecedented and unplanned ‘Great Pause’ to emerge into a ‘Great Regeneration’.
Crisis finance is an opportunity to converge investments for the future
Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, commented to me recently that unless we work to both defeat the coronavirus crisis in the short term and climate change in the longer term with the very same economic packages, none of us will be safe in a definite way. We have a medical emergency, an oil crisis, and a climate change challenge, but Fatih expressed this moment as, above all, an ethical test for all governments around the world. Humanity will not forget which leaders took which position in order to push back the pandemic, or what steps they took to safely pull us out of the other global crises.
First, we have to urgently flatten the coronavirus curve, ensuring the most vulnerable get the medical and financial support they need. Secondly, unprecedented economic recovery packages will be put in place to create jobs and inject liquidity into the market. These packages must ensure we are providing productivity and wellbeing while bending the curve of greenhouse gases. It is true that global GHG emissions are expected to drop by a few percentage points this year for the first time in history, but putting people into confinement, closing our schools, curtailing our business activities, our events and travel is absolutely not what a viable low-carbon future looks like.
Rather, our low carbon future is a bustling, thriving economy where we breathe clean air and can gather freely with each other; where our energy, food production, building and transportation systems have been re-made to be fit for a safer and more resilient world. Our clean future is one without coal or the internal combustion engine, but with millions of new jobs in energy efficiency, electric vehicles, renewable energy, green hydrogen, smart and strengthened grids on the energy side; and on the land use side, planting trees and preserving our old-growth forests, mangroves, seagrass meadows and peatlands.
The largest packages of public funding in history are about to be crystallised – they should also be the most forward-thinking investments in humanity that we’ve ever seen.
Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary – a moment to connect our voices and lift our spirits
No doubt you have been struck by the willingness of many organisations, performing artists, television presenters and activists to continue working together and meeting online during this time of social distancing and isolation. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day has shifted to become the biggest online conference about climate change (so far!). I hope many of you will take part in the important conversations taking place online instead of in person.
Although it’s not the same as a festival of human convergence, this Earth Day takes place at the beginning of the most consequential decade in human history – where we must not only flatten the curve of global emissions but sustain the decline, to reach a 50% reduction by 2030. I’m pleased to play my part in helping to fuel the narrative arc of regeneration! I’m joining Earth Day Network and Wedonthavetime on April 21st and the Earth Optimism Summit on April 23rd. I look forward to hearing from many other speakers over the week.
I loved joining the incredible Jane Fonda on Firedrill Friday last week – what a thrill! Jane campaigns tirelessly in the US despite the lockdown situation, a true Stubborn Climate Optimist.
This week, Tom Rivett-Carnac will be giving his first TED talk from his home in England, an innovative new approach from the TED team, after the health crisis caused them to cancel their annual global gathering. He will talk about owning our power when we seem to lack influence and how to bring about The Future We Choose.
Watch out for the video launch on Earth Day.
Outrage + Optimism went live to discuss The Future We Choose
As many of you know, Tom Rivett-Carnac and I wrote a book called The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis which launched in February this year and in just a couple of weeks became a Sunday Times bestseller, thanks to the support of many of you. Our book tour was forced to take a pause due to the COVID-19 crisis, so we held a discussion about the book with listeners of our podcast, Outrage + Optimism, which Tom and I co-present weekly with our dear friend, Paul Dickinson.
We firmly believe that change of the scale needed to tackle the climate crisis requires all of us to be activated – radically shifting systems and individual behavioural change are necessary. We enjoyed learning from people what keeps them stubbornly optimistic in the face of the health and climate crises and what behaviours they thought might be ‘sticky’ as we emerge from the isolation of the pandemic to tackle climate change. Watch and tell us what you think on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram tagging @GlobalOptimism in your posts – we’ll announce our next Live discussion on social media soon and include as many of your comments as possible.
In stubborn optimism,