Silver Linings 2

Amid worries over the Coronavirus epidemic, Wall Street stocks have gone down (U.S. stocks are on track to have their worst week since the 2008 financial market crisis) — but so have our carbon emissions. According to the New York Times “Climate Forward” email newsletter, “In the past month, the world has seen a remarkably large drop in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main driver of global warming” as a result of factory shutdowns and other actions taken to control the Coronavirus epidemic.

(Such drops in emissions were previously observed during the airline flight shutdowns that followed the 9-11 attacks and the eruption of a volcano in Iceland.)

I doubt that even the most ardent environmentalist would say that the emissions reduction is worth the death and suffering caused by the virus. But this side-effect of the epidemic does offer a window into what is possible if humankind were to undertake voluntary reductions in travel and other forms of consumption.

The coronavirus epidemic has also prompted at least one Neighborhood Watch chairman to plan on bringing up food-growing and rainwater collection at her upcoming neighborhood meeting, as actions that would be in her community’s interest to undertake. She has been bringing this up in the community for a long time, with little effect, but feels that the potential for the epidemic to lead to a shutdown of basic daily supplies and services might give people a stronger motivation to find value in this suggestion.

Further Reading:

The New Yorker just started a climate crisis newsletter, which provides updates from inside the climate-action movement by writer and activist Bill McKibben. You can sign up here for the free email newsletter.

In the first issue of the newsletter, McKibben includes a quote from Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N.’s climate-change convention: “The decade we have just started is the most consequential decade humanity has ever faced. If we are not able to cut our current global greenhouse-gas emissions by fifty per cent over the next ten years, we will be poised to enter into a world of constant destruction of infrastructure, congested and polluted cities, rampant diseases, increasing burning and flooding, mass migrations due to extensive droughts, heat or land loss leading to the abandonment of uninhabitable areas, and political turmoil as people fight for food, water, and land. At the current level of emissions, that is the world that we are heading for. If, on the other hand, we set our minds and determination to the necessary transformation, reducing our global greenhouse gases [by] half over the next ten years, we would have actually co-created a path toward a very different world: a reforested planet with regenerated agriculture, clean and efficient transport, enjoyable cities, clean air, and ubiquitous cheap energy for everyone.”

From Quartz ( “Dutch trends forecaster Li Edelkoort has a provocative outlook on Covid-19, the deadly coronavirus strain that has upended manufacturing cycles, travel plans, and conference schedules around the world. … [T]he celebrated 69-year old design industry advisor pictured Covid-19 as a sobering force that will temper our consumerist appetites and jet-setting habits. Edelkoort … believes we can emerge from the health crisis as more conscientious humans. ‘We need to find new values—values of simple experience, of friendship,’ she told Quartz. ‘It might just turn the world around for the better.'”

And on the Deep Adaptation forum on Facebook, a fellow member mentioned hearing from some people in Italy that the quarantines have given them a rest from break-neck schedules, demanding bosses, and the like.