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Covid-19 and Climate Change

April 14, 2020 9:56 PM
By Linda Johnson
Linda Johnson (Linda Johnson)Comment from Linda Johnson

I posted an article by John Vidal out on my Facebook page back in March, which linked Covid-19 and Climate Change and was immediately met with a barrage of abuse, including criticism from some Liberal Democrats (incredibly) who said that climate change and Covid-19 should not be linked.

John Vidal said that an increasing number of researchers think that man's destruction of the rain forests and ecosystems, along with rising global temperatures, is creating the conditions for new viruses, such as Ebola (which came from chimpanzees, which were probably infected by bats) and Covid-19 (which has likely come from chickens via bats). The first victims of Ebola ate an infected chimpanzee in the same way as the first victims of Covid-19 ate infected chicken.

Humans are traveling to and adapting wild areas of the world which harbour bacteria and viruses to which we have no immunity. Why are we going to try to tame these places? Because we are running out of the resources we need to feed our ever-growing population. But this is a vicious circle. As we burn rainforests to grow palm oil to grow soy to feed cattle which use gallons and gallons of water (so depleting the earth's water resources) and emit methane (contributing to total green-house gasses which are causing global temperatures to rise) so we are also depriving the animal life which contributes to biodiversity of their homes. What do we do then? We either kill the animals, put them in zoos or eat them. As Vidal says: "We disrupt eco-systems, and we shake viruses lose from their natural hosts. What then happens is they need a new host. Often, we are it."

This salutary piece makes a lot of sense. Added to that the political comment of green-campaigner George Monbiot, who also says it like it is. To paraphrase, he thinks Westernised humans have become complacent, they deny anything which doesn't suit their arrogant mindsets, they don't listen to experts but would rather rely on the rantings of a populist, they have become immune to reality because their wealth has shielded them from the harm they are doing. "But now," he wrote in the Guardian "the membrane has ruptured, and we find ourselves naked and outraged, as the biology we appear to have banished, storms through our lives."

There is an opportunity amongst the tragedy of Covid-19 to get people to stop and look at what they are doing. If they are fighting over toilet paper today, how will they behave when water supplies dry up or when food is in short supply due to rising temperatures? Water is already rationed in more countries than we in the UK realise. The damming of the Euphrates in Turkey has reduced water flow into Syria and Iraq by 75%; Mexico is drawing water from aquifers so deep it is literally sinking; Australia has 'zero water' days; Botswana now has no rivers flowing in and out of the country and South Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have water rationing. As for food, around 900m people now go hungry, mainly because of climate change causing crop-failures due to weather-related disasters ( https://www.concernusa.org/story/worlds-ten-hungriest-countries/ accessed 13/4/2020). Conflict is also contributing as people migrate to countries with better food supplies.

So what can we do as Liberal Democrats? We, as a party, exist to support a 'sustainable economy which serves genuine need' and 'international action based on a recognition of the interdependence of all the world's people and responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources.' (Liberal Democrat Constitution https://www.libdems.org.uk/constitution). If we fail to challenge policies by any country, party or individual which does not uphold the constitution which we have signed up to, then, surely, we are in breech of our membership vows. By not fighting climate change and campaigning to educate as to the reasons we, the human race, is suffering from the current pandemic, then we cannot complain when things get even worse. As Green Liberal Democrats, we have a job to do. Let's get to it, now!

Vidal, J. 'The Age of Extinction. Tip of the Iceberg: is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19? Guardian, March 18, 2020.
Monbiot, G. 'Real Life - The Coronavirus is a Wake-up Call for a Complacent Civilisation' Guardian March 25 2020.