“Now is ‘not the time to push the barrow’ on climate change” says Paul Murray Sky News Australia Host.
Prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) 2008, environmentalism (or whatever label you wish to give it) was making significant headway. They were more affluent times and the developed world was willing and capable to divert resources and attention to matters in this area. In the main, it did not impact negatively on most people’s lifestyle. Articles in the media reflected this position and rarely would contrary opinions be tolerated.
The GFC 2008 destroyed that confidence because jobs, livelihoods and financial well-being were being threatened. It resulted in people focusing on financial survival. Climate change, environmentalism were perceived as altruistic issues that could be addressed in better times. The media quickly reflected this change of attitude. The cynics and denialists moment had arrived. Articles began questioning various aspects of environmental sustainability providing economic stability as an excuse to ignore the progress that had been made.
Since that time, the climate change, sustainability, environmental advocates and innovators have worked very hard to gain the lost ground and move forward, even if the detractors are still vocal. Only to once again be faced with a new challenge, COVID-19 which some have already named the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) 2020. Will it mean that these matters are relegated once again to the back seat?
Looking at the last sixty issues of Making Enviro News there is a definite trend indicating that news items in the area are declining.
In some ways, Paul Murray is correct. As the World Banks has pointed out. “The initial focus must be on the front lines: supporting doctors and nurses, as well as ensuring that homes and hospitals have power and water, waste is properly disposed, and food is available and affordable. Attention must also focus on the households hit by drastically reduced incomes, especially those with exposed occupations (e.g., tourism or restaurants) or unstable incomes (e.g., independent workers), as well as the poorest households with little savings.”1
Before it is taken as fait accompli and gloves are hung up, there are some facts that should be pointed out.
In the US, according to a study of more than a dozen general news websites by comScore, a media measurement company, the number of minutes spent by readers at news sites has increased 46 percent from the same period ending a few days ago last year, and overall visits rose 57 percent .
This is a rare opportunity to engage people to think about the world around us and how it can be changed for the better when this period of isolation ends.2
To do this the sustainable environmental community needs to examine and then appropriately adjust its narrative. Questions need to be posed. The most important one at this stage is to ask whether continuing in the same manner in the future as has been done in the past will yield results.
The current atmosphere is surrounded with uncertainty. There is the possibility of 10% or more unemployment. Businesses are desperately examining ways to trim excess to survive. Governments are ploughing money to prop up the economy.
COVID-19 is going to put Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the test.
Advocates and innovators in the climate change, environmental sustainability and circular economy space have a rare opportunity. To shine a light showing the path and demonstrating that there is a way out of this quagmire.
It is no longer appropriate to keep pointing out what is wrong. It is now vital to demonstrate how to make it right. There is already a significant amount of evidence available. It is now time to make it practical. The messages need to be clear and the opportunities shown to be within reach.
Companies need clear directions. how it can be achieved and in a manner that will have a positive impact on the bottom line, in the short and long term. Employees at all levels need assistance to champion changes in the workplace.
Many organisations are taking advantage of video communications to discuss and present information. At one of these events, the question was asked “are we preaching to the converted?” A valid point to ponder.
Looking at it from a simplistic perspective. The majority of people are neither advocates nor detractors. These are the people that need to be engaged and these are the people who require the understanding of the benefits to the world and the benefits to the economy to make it happen.
How do we get to these people?
One way is though news media. By providing journalist with stories that say it can be done, it has been done and this is how to do it.
With enough noise, every person in isolation will understand they have a role to play and see what can be done to make a difference.
So, what is your story to tell…
1“Thinking ahead: For a sustainable recovery from COVID-19” https://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/for-a-sustainable-recovery-from-covid-19#?cid=SHR_BlogSiteShare_EN_EXT
2‘Coronavirus Brings a Surge to News Sites’ The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/business/coronavirus-news-sites.html