Jun 14, 2020
by Tish Levee, For the Planet
As I write this every state’s begun opening up from shelter-in-place, but we don’t know how well that’ll work. Several countries and states have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases when restrictions were lifted. For the foreseeable future, we need to stay home as much as we can—practice social distancing, wear face coverings, and wash our hands as often as possible.
Most of northwestern California is already in a severe drought. If you’re washing your hands just 10 times daily AND leaving the water running for the recommended 20 seconds, you’re wasting water. Turn off the tap after you wet your hands and save 2-5 gallons daily.
The County Health Department’s banned the use of reusable shopping bags during the pandemic. However, many stores will let you put your groceries back in your cart and take it to you car (or bike?), where you can put them in your own bags. Pacific Market, Oliver’s, and Community Market all do this. Check where you shop.
Banning single-use bags in Sonoma County in 2014 made a big difference; we need to learn how to work with the new restrictions on using them.
We won’t be able to go back to bulk shopping…
No one knows when, if ever, we can do that. So we have to be creative in eliminating packaging as much as we can. Buy in larger sizes, make sure you recycle whatever you can, try to avoid plastic as much as possible, and continue cooking from- scratch. Explore alternative laundry, dishwashing, cleaning, and person care products that use less packaging. You may have to go online, but you can find shampoo bars locally, at the Farmer’s Market.
Try to shop locally as much as you can.
Local businesses have been badly hurt by the shutdown. Give them your business whenever possible. Most shops have curbside delivery available.
Since 2009, Daily Acts has had various Resiliency Challenges. Their original goal of planting 350 gardens nearly doubled the first year. In the next decade over 81,000 individual actions were taken, and the Challenge spread to other cities and states. Now, the Be the Change Campaign is sharing action ideas, how-to videos, and weekly resources to help you practice self-care and personal leadership, grow food and medicine, conserve water and resources, and build community and civic engagement. Check it out at https://dailyacts.org/bethechange.
COVID isn’t the only crisis we’re facing.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We see the numbers daily, but we don’t know the long term effects of either the virus OR the world economy, which is reeling. At the same time, we’re faced with an even more existential threat—and one that is here now, too, not just in some future period. The Climate Crisis is killing people right now, and it has exacerbated the effect of COVID for poorer and marginal people who are already suffering from extreme air pollution and the effects of climate change. There are many parallels between the COVID pandemic and the Climate Crisis. It’s become increasingly clear, during the shutdown, that we can’t return to “Business as Usual” We’ve an opportunity RIGHT NOW to go forward to a new “normal”— one that works a lot better For the Planet and its nearly eight billion people.
A reminder—this column is now bi-monthly.
Since April, “For the Planet” appears in print only in even-numbered months. However, I set up a Facebook page, “For the Planet,” for breaking news and virtual actions. Message me there if you have questions about the Climate Crisis and what you can do. https://www.facebook.com/For-the-Planet-104177711230910
Recently Jews around the world read the only portion of the Bible that deals with land tenure (Leviticus 25:23), where the Divine said,“the land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with me.” In effect humans are only tenants with a right to occupy the land. This is similar to most indigenous people’s concept of land ownership, which is why Native Americans couldn’t understand the treaties that white colonists asked them to sign.
Because all the earth and all its inhabitants belong to the Creator, neither the land nor people could be owned by human beings in perpetuity. So every 50 years the land and the people returned to their original state.
What if we were to realize that we don’t own the Earth or other people or have any inherent rights such as mineral rights? Would we be exploiting the Earth as we do?
Our attitude towards the Earth — this belief humans can “own” the Earth—and how we use Her has been a major factor in the income inequality of which COVID has made us so aware.
Oxfam reported that in 2018 the 26 richest people on Earth had the same net worth as the poorest half of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion people. At the same time 10% of Americans owned 70% of our nation’s wealth.
While the Treasury Department’s website states that the CARES Act — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—works for all Americans, the reality is quite different. The Act offers a windfall for the rich in the form of retroactive tax breaks unrelated to Covid-19, which will cost Americans $86 billon in 2020 alone, with most millionaires being promised loopholes averaging $1.6 million each. Meanwhile most average Americans are struggling to even pay one month’s housing costs with their $1200 check.
COVID is a wake-up call that, if we’re willing to listen, can help us to see what we’re doing to our planet and to all people. The death rate from COVID-19 as I write this is over 100,000 people in the US and approaching 400,000 worldwide (many experts feel these figures are low as, in the absence of testing, many COVID deaths aren’t accurately reported). This is a horrific number; in response to this plague, most of the world went into lockdown mode, with a more serious effect on the world economy than even the Great Depression. These numbers must cause us all to pause and ask where are we going? what happens next?
At the same time, we are faced with an even more existential threat — and one that is here now, too, not just in some future period. The Climate Crisis is killing people right now, and it’s exacerbated the effect of COVID for poorer and marginal people who are already suffering from extreme air pollution and the effects of climate change.
Black carbon, methane, and nitrogen oxides are powerful drivers of global heating; with other air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and ozone, they’re responsible for over seven million deaths each year, about one in eight worldwide.
Air pollution’s not the only effect of the Climate Crisis that’s killing people. Add in extreme heat and humidity, ramped up tropical storms, flooding, wildfires, insect-born diseases, and old infectious diseases that are more difficult to control, such as cholera, bubonic plague, and anthrax. As man-made climate change has taken hold over the last four decades, dozens of new infectious diseases have emerged or begun to threaten new regions, including Zika and Ebola., and now COVID-19.
Then there are the indirect effects, such as drought, locusts ravaging Africa (and now India), rising seas levels and increased ocean acidification — reducing fishing and aquaculture and aggravating malnutrition and food insecurity. Already 25,000 people die from hunger and starvation every day — that’s nine million people a year, more than die from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
All of this will just exacerbate the problems we’re already experiencing. For instance the World Bank estimates that by 2050, there could be one billion climate refugees from parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
There’s a lot of talk about “getting back to normal.” But that normal hasn’t been working for most of the people on Earth or for the Planet.
We need to think creatively about what we can do to make a “new normal,” one that works a lot better for most of the more than eight billion people who now inhabit the Earth. We’ve already seen that many things we thought were impossible or that we were told simply could not work are actually possible; they’re working right now. Many people are able to work from home. People who check-out our groceries and deliver them are being seen as much more valued members of society and worth being paid much more. Parents are discovering how woefully underpaid teachers are. Most people are reaching out to others and caring for them and about them. We’re learning to connect in new ways, ways we never thought we would.
Skies are clear in Los Angeles and India, birds are heard singing in China, and it is as if a large part of the world has stopped, paused, and taken a deep breath — of clean air.
Of course we can’t keep this up, we will have to leave our safe shelters-in-place sometime (and hopefully we’ll realize how fortunate we’ve been to have had them and be able to socially distance). As we move out into the world, let’s commit ourselves to take the lessons we’ve been learning in this time of plague and use them to transform our world.
There’s a lot happening with the Climate Crisis, check out For the Planet on Facebook for updates.
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