I think we can all remember the period of the crisis where the world fawned over the widespread footage and images of nature’s revival in the absence of humanity. We all revelled in an idea of what the planet could look like were it given a chance to breathe from the ever-surging human population - in fact, some suggested the idea of an annual lockdown to ‘let nature breathe.’ Much the same with many phases that receive scant attention on social media before quickly falling out of fashion with page aesthetics and limited attention spans, this love of nature online seemed to quickly dissipate off my feed. My worry lies in the fact that, for the amount we’re caught up in the modern world’s incredibly stressful politics, we fail to tie in nature’s importance in solving political problems. The 31st of July was officially the third hottest day ever recorded in England, but was met with a nonchalant reception and was overshadowed by political drama instead. Nature and our climate should be our central focus. We live in and amongst our world, not on it or above it - the Covid-19 crisis has exposed how vulnerable we are to the world if we don’t protect it, and to each other if we don’t understand it.
Lockdown has provided us with an ample amount of time to absorb vast quantities of media, most notably being that of news and politics. Many argue that without lockdown having forced everyone indoors and directing our attention constantly on media updates, the uproar and ongoing successes (as well as horrors) of the BLM civil rights movement would have experienced far less of a response and support than it received. Being confined to being inside for so long significantly improved both an appreciation and understanding of the goings on outside. I’d argue that, in many ways, the lockdown has radicalised many towards a very alternative view of thinking. We’ve become more introspective, and a great likelihood of becoming more introverted as well. In doing so, we see the changes that need to take place in our world and the issues that plague it, without it being dominated by countless distractions. This high attention rate given to the media however now needs to be dedicated consistently towards these greater threats, and maintaining an eye on the greatest of those: climate change.
It is, without a doubt, the greatest threat both humanity and our planet face. The crisis is tied into all manner of other conflicts and disasters globally; with the crisis fuelling tensions in the Sahel region of Africa, as groups fight viciously over water reserves. The ongoing conflict in Yemen, gaining substantial online awareness, but with the deaths caused by conflict being greatly overshadowed by those as a result of the climate. The Uyghur Muslims being taken to concentration camps in China, the surrounding regions spilling over into Indo-China and Bangladesh being hit by some of the worst flooding in decades. Everyone is gaining a substantially differing mindset about the world we live in, past simple political maturity, but a realisation about the danger people and the planet are in. To have an opinion on the planet and nature thoroughly establishes your political stance as a whole. To remain apolitical is to remain ignorant to these crises’ intersectionality..
Disproportionately, those suffering under poverty throughout the world are women, with the figure upwards of 70%. This poverty escalates to a widespread, global human trafficking network - a network that benefits substantially from the increasing occurrence of natural disasters. Through these statistics, we can rule that the climate crisis is most definitely a feminist issue too. Not only that, but a racial issue as well. Those overwhelmingly bound to see the worst of the crisis, are BIPOC living in the global south - a region wholly irresponsible for the crisis they will bear the brunt of. By 2050, the UN Environmental Programme has predicted there could be up to 1 billion climate refugees fleeing from the global south. As it stands today, approximately 1% of the world is considered too much of a ‘hot zone’ to be inhabitable - this figure could rise to about 20% in the next 50 years, hugely devastating the global south at the benefit of the north. In the fight for justice, for racial equality and to secure women’s and LGBT+ rights, the climate crisis ties it all together.
Back home, there is an ever growing disillusionment with the government from the perspective of the young. Not simply because they do not work in our interests, but because they don’t work in the planet’s either. The slow rise of climate strikes since 2018, the growth of the BLM movement since 2013, huge marches and parades for Pride and the securing of reproductive rights for women all interlink in global upset at the current political system. It seeks not to serve the planet and the majority that live upon it, but perpetuate a status quo of a shrinking middle-upper class and an ever-surging working class and lower. The wealth that billionaires have attained over the course of lockdown is staggering - which, when paired with the record-breaking climate events and expanding fights for civil rights, puts the disparity between the rich and everything else square in front of us. Saving our planet and securing equality is not some distant issue because our governments are the most responsible and most corrupt in exacerbating these struggles. Northern Ireland, as well as the rest of these Isles, is set to receive surges of flooding over the next century as a result of the crisis - but the lockdown has given hope to fight against the crisis and to fight to secure equality the world over. We’ve seen the nefarious attitude of the governments when our safety during social-distancing and lockdowns being more-or-less in our own hands. I believe it’s time, more so than ever, to do the same in securing a better future for the planet and for humanity.
Orry Kerr is a 21 year old History student from the Isle of Man going into his 3rd year QUB. He is part of the Amnesty QUB committee and involved in various environmental and conservation activist movements.