2021: The Year of Adaptation

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If there is a sentence that starts off the year, it would be this: “We’re at War!”  Many people have predicted that the likes of Trump, Erdogan and Bolsonaro would take us into World War III. The reality is, we’re already in the Third World War. We open up the year with empty streets and fewer fireworks, yet with overcrowded hospitals and mortuaries. We open up the year with empty chairs at the dinner table and people grieving over the loss of their loved ones. We open up the year in silence-, as silent as the piece produced by the rock music group Disturbed:

Many of us want our lives back, our normalcy and our tradition. The truth is, this we will never get back, at least in the form that we were used to having at this time last year.  Welcome to the new normalcy. It’s the normalcy of perpetual war that we have to fight, day in and day out. It’s the war that our children will have to get used to- better now than never.  It’s a war that brings family, friends and neighbors together at the expense of individualism- all the me-too’s, all the money and greed, the materialism and assholism. It’s a time of unity and multilateralism, coming together to battle one common enemy- climate change; global warming that is affecting our livelihoods in every corner of the globe.

Alarm bells have sounded- from New York to Geneva, Copenhagen to Nairobi, Peking to San Francisco- for years that the effects of global warming would impact every aspect of life, from coast to coast. Yet nobody listened. We went on with our lives while livelihoods of others were destroyed in the name of profit. We don’t need to look far: deforestation in Brazil, derechos and tornados that are more numerous and powerful (as with hurricanes), dying forests and drought, way too many heat domes because of concrete and asphalt, overcrowded beaches because of the need to cool off during the heatwaves, forest fires destroying cities with biblical force.  It’s no secret that Greta Thunberg said that the house is on fire, because our whole world is on fire.

And now, we have Covid-19, one of millions of viruses that have arisen as a result of global warming, especially with the melting of perma-frost…….

…. and we all act like chickens???

We all drown ourselves in finger-pointing and conspiracy theories, yet we don’t even look at ourselves and ask “Are we the ones that did this?”  Greed and individualism led to the collapse of the financial markets in 1929 and again in 2008. The one in 1929 led to the Great Depression. Covid-19 will surely usher in another Great Depression in a year or two because of its impacts on businesses large and small. Already talks of a wave of failed businesses and banks have started in the state parliaments and are growing louder by the minute, and the ideas of town festivals, club events and even Christmas markets are becoming the thing of the past. We’re about to repeat this, and we have next to no people left who had lived through two World Wars and the last Great Depression, because these are the people who experienced this and told us stories on how to survive and adapt to change.

We can read up on their experiences and call up memories they told us, but the truth is we are in a war and it is up to us to make history. It’s a question of how we want to make history- by continuing on the pre-Covid path and risk total destruction of our world or by making fundamental, and sometimes very painful changes and make the world a better place for the next generation?  The bottom line is Covid-19 is just one aspect, one enemy of Climate Change. We have millions more to fight but with multilateral action, with cooperation and with unity, the war against Climate Change can be winnable.

It starts with us. How much plastic waste can we reduce? Do we need top of the line fashions or can we reuse our clothing or buy used ones? Is it worth flying to Timbuktu or should we travel locally? In German terms, is it worth storming the beaches along the North and Baltic Sea or should we rather go the Lakes Regions near Leipzig, or in Mecklenburg-Pommerania? Should we really see the most popular places like Mallorca or should we discover something more local? Must we buy produce imported from New Zealand or China or should we embrace in locally grown products? Is it necessary to commute to work by car, or should be go there by bike and train?  These are some of hundreds of questions that we need to sit down and discuss, and thoroughly.

It continues with the governments. Do we need more roads and bridges or should we have a comprehensive plan to battle air pollution? Is it necessary to sell fireworks or should only communities have displays of their own for New Year? What can we do to help the forests, apart from replanting trees and cleaning up natural habitats and lakes? What can we do to make the medical and health care sectors be more comprehensive and provide more care to those who need it? And how can we improve on the laws and regulations and ensure that they are enforced thoroughly, which includes more fines and sanctions for violators? It is becoming clear that the environment and health care will be at the very forefront, and the state needs to step up and put an end to loopholes and people who disregard the rules at their own conveniences. Compromises have become a thing of the past with Covid-19 if we look at the lockdowns that have been enforced in Europe, parts of the US and Asia.

It goes onto the international front. A relief that Joe Biden will take over as President of the US come January 20, 2021, and that the US will re-enter the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, yet it is just the beginning. We will see more multilateralism when it comes to tackling climate change and punishing those, like Bosonaro, who are responsible for destroying the environment. One of the first actions I would like to see is the Brazilian President’s overthrow by military force and the installment of a government that will restore the rain forests. Another is holding outgoing US President Trump and his family accountable for their inaction and punish them like what happened to Bernie Madoff. But on a wider scale, we need a concerted action to reduce global warming and revegetate areas destroyed by modernization and deforestation. This includes forcing companies to reinvent by being green and limiting tourism to more tolerable levels. It includes informing the public about climate change and giving them options to combat it. And that is just the beginning…….

We have to change but change is possible if all parties are on board. The more we can contribute the earlier we can end the war on climate change. The more we can contribute the fewer the diseases that can impact society, like Covid-19. The more we can contribute, the greener the environment and the better the chances are that our next generation will embrace it and benefit from our changes. If we want a sense of normalcy, this is the only way to do it.

But for now, we have to accept the fact that we are in a world war, not just with Covid-19 but with global warming because the virus originated from this. We’ve had break-neck records regarding temperatures, hurricanes, forest fires and all. Our pre-Covid normalcy has died. We can forget this, bury it and move on. 2021 is the year of the new norm. We have to accept this and adapt. We are in a war, but with a concerted act on all fronts, this war is winnable.

It goes beyond getting the Covid-19 shot. It starts with us and what we can do to address both locally as well as in the long-term.