Resilience In Responding to a Pandemic or Climate Emergency

By Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Community Engagement Director, Thurston Climate Action Team, March 26, 2020

None of us signed up for this crisis. The depth of the transformation and destruction it has brought in such a short time is breathtaking.  The climate change scenarios I’ve imagined slowly ate away at the economy and the environment, but allowed us to stand shoulder to shoulder and hug, hold hands, and play together as we faced the crises that would punctuate the gradual unfolding of climate change.  This pandemic is sudden and brutal, but climate disruption is unrelenting.

Responding to a pandemic, or to a climate emergency, requires resilience. 

For that reason, TCAT is focused on continuing climate work and building our resilience as a community.  We will have a Resiliency Story Telling Circle on April 2 (see calendar event), and we invite you to sign up here to join a Climate Action Group – Carbon Free Thurston (CFT) Advocacy Group, Tree Action Group, Youth Education Community Outreach (YECO) Group, the new Buildings as Climate Action Group, and the soon to be launched Transportation Action Group.

These Climate Action Groups are now meeting via Zoom videoconferencing and they are taking action.  Will you join us?

Ahhh, you may say, “Isn’t this one crisis enough to deal with?”  The fact is that for many of us, there is little we can do about the pandemic other than to wait it out.  However, with climate disruption, if we do not work from now into the next decade, we will face a severe, permanent problem. The climate emergency won’t be a temporary problem that ends after a year, but a permanent problem that is just as severe and with no reverse button.  For the sake of future generations, and for our own quality of life, we must do this work now!  The funny thing is that many of us have a lot more time right now than we have ever had to do this work.  Consider it an opportunity to make a difference.

This crisis, as awful as it is, will end.  Every pandemic in history has ended.  And then we will pick up the pieces.  There will be lives lost, apparently very many.  There will be economic damage which will cause people to lose their businesses, their jobs, and in some cases their homes.  This time, we will have societal resources available to try to respond to those who are hurt (assuming certain political opposition can be overcome).  However, under progressive climate change scenarios, all of these same losses will occur and will require more resources.  The expected environmental damage will undermine our economy in the same way, hitting some sectors and geographic locations harder than others, and causing widespread job loss and homelessness.

This pandemic is a dress rehearsal for the climate emergency – unless we act now with absolute resolve.

The current crisis holds a lot of information for us about where we need to build resilience.  It has revealed the areas where we do not have adequate safety nets or scaffolding to protect our community.   As we rebuild our damaged structures, the planning process invites us to create new structures, that are more equitable, more durable, and more humane.  We can learn to let go of a fixed set of ideas that are “normal” or “the way it has always been.”

If we sit back, the rich and powerful will again be the ones that chart our course.  But if we take action, we can set the plans for the transformation we would like to see.

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