• Hans van Mameren

How can the climate crisis cut through the Covid-19 media storm? Or is the cause the same?

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

In one of his recent posts on Eco-Business, Robin Hicks raised a rightful question. (https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/how-can-the-climate-crisis-cut-through-the-covid-19-media-storm/)

However, media attention is one thing, causes and implications or solutions are different. And Covid-19 and Climate Change share the same cause! Our economic and financial model, has resulted in a range of impacts.

Profit optimization and shareholders value are concepts that do not pay any or little attention to externalities. Still these market disrupters are there. They have their impacts. Maybe not today but for sure tomorrow or soon after.

That is the root cause of climate crisis. Our economic model values today’s gains and ignores the costs of the future. In Robin’s article Edwin Yeo states: “Climate change has always been couched as tomorrow’s problem, and people don’t worry about tomorrow when there is a clear and present threat today,”

What is here today is visible and hardly debated, what is to come is challenged by many. Simply call it a hoax and it’s gone. Till tomorrow becomes today.

The root cause of Covid-19 and its rapid spreading have the same origin as the climate crisis. Getting rich quickly by breeding and trading in wildlife. Some in China made good money on breeding peacock, civets and other wildlife for consumption. But this breeding method became the cause of infectious diseases. That too was an externality not accounted for. Producing, processing and distribution was not done in a way according to modern standards. Too costly. Fighting swine- and bird flu are a never-ending matter in Europe and farmers do complain about the costs and hassles that it brings. But still it is cheaper than an outbreak. Here too is an example of the costs of profit optimization.

In 2003 the world was globalized too, but SARS spread at a slower pace and less wide than Covid-19 today. In the quest for more and cheaper, a huge distribution network of goods and people has been created and costs are saved where-ever possible or even impossible. Covid-19 travelled with us.

Climate change has the same root cause. We produce and consume as much as we can, to meet our excessive psychological demands. The more the better. Can be done, as long as the externalities are not accounted for. When those costs would have been included, we would have refrained from much of that as being too costly.

Corporates are fighting against and avoiding carbon tax. As they do against all taxes. The bigger the profit the better it is. And for their bonuses. Carbon tax is a first initiative

to bring forward an externality. Maybe not perfect but anyhow a start. And how many countries have it? And what is done with it?

When we want to fight climate change, Covid-19 and whatever is on its way, we need building a new economy. A new economy that is aware of and accounts for all the externalities.

With solar and wind power we can generate energy anywhere. Energy will then be something all nations and regions have access to. Just by that, it creates more equality. Oil is a commodity controlled by a few and needed by all. Creating a huge unbalance. With all the knowledge we have, food can be grown nearly everywhere. Even in urban areas, on roofs, alongside walls and on water stretches. It might not eliminate all long-distance logistics but it will greatly reduce it. Centralized production with worldwide distribution might be nice for those who produce but makes others dependent. This unnecessary logistics puts a heavy strain on the environment. Ships, planes, trucks crisscross the wold and with them an army of pathogens.

New methods of production, new technologies and above all more modest demands. Read a book on your own terrace, instead of cruising with 5000 others and invade the terraces of Venice. Displacing birds and fish. Will such a change happen? NO.

Archaeologist excavate the grounds of ancient sites. Underneath the ruins of a once mighty empire they find even older ruins of a previous culture. When they dig on, they find a next one. History tells us cultures do not adjust; they vanish. And a new one is built over the ruins of the previous one. How will this turn out for our culture?

Let’s end with a bit more optimistic tone. We have all the bricks, bolt and nuts and tools to build that new economy and society. A better world, a better climate, a better society is achievable. It also needs to be a more equal society. All the Lego pieces are there. It might not be as glamorous and abundant as what some of us have right now. But more than enough to live a “Good Life”.

Climate and environment and diseases do not have to fight against each other for attention as they need the same cure: A different accountancy model taking into account all costs.

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