Four lessons learned from COVID-19 and how they are applicable to the fight against climate change


Julia Woods


As we write this, cities across the globe are becoming ghost towns as public spaces, schools, businesses, and places of worship close their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Along with carbon emissions and climate impacts, the virus ignores international borders, requiring a global response to stop the spread of the pandemic. As business as usual grinds to a halt to protect society’s most vulnerable, we reflect on what can be learned from our response to COVID-19 and share four lessons that can be applied to the fight against climate change.

1. It will take each and every one of us to save the world, and power lies in the hands of local communities. Notice how governments and the World Health Organization are asking global citizens to stay home to “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of disease? And how people are taking drastic action to change their everyday habits for the greater good? There is immense power in this swift and collective action implemented by individuals. Every person plays a key role in preventing the spread of this disease, and the impact is demonstrative. Let’s build a similar movement, powered by local people like you and me, to address climate change.

2. Can’t take to the streets? Get online to make a statement. For over a year, kids and teens all over the world have ditched school and taken to the streets to demand action on climate change. Public health experts’ recommendations to cancel all large gatherings may have put a snag in their plans, but it sure didn’t stop them. They’re standing up for the planet from the safety of their homes through a #ClimateStrikeOnline. The younger generation has taught us that when the going gets tough, keep going – and find another way to have your voice heard.

3. Global action by individuals is essential when it comes to challenges that cross borders. Like climate change, disease knows no borders. As such, these challenges cannot be conquered by countries in isolation. While each country may be approaching COVID-19 in slightly different ways, it’s clear that global action is required to protect the greater good – both by governments as well as individuals. With a similar response to climate change, let’s put aside our differences and implement a strategy to save the planet.

4. We must act NOW to protect the most vulnerable in our society. COVID-19 may be challenging for the young and healthy to conceptualize. And yet we practice extensive social distancing, proper handwashing and sneezing etiquette, and other measures in order to protect those most vulnerable to the disease: the elderly and the immunocompromised. Similarly, climate change is difficult to understand for those not yet affected. Yet, in reality, climate change is already impacting the lives of thousands across the world, primarily those least responsible, and it endangers the lives of future generations. As individuals, let’s learn from COVID-19 and change our actions NOW to protect society’s most vulnerable. Here are a handful of ways.

Ultimately, these lessons give us hope. We’re inspired by the actions everyday people are taking to prevent the spread of disease and protect humanity, and we each can do so much more. When we work together, we can root change.

P.S. Hunkering down at home the next few weeks? Check out this list of environmental and human rights books, movies, and podcasts. And for those with children at home, don’t miss our list of environmental picture books for kids.

Julia Woods, Communications Specialist, Global Green Grants Fund

This article was originally published on the Global Greengrants Fund blog on 18 March 2020. The orginal article can be viewed here.

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