Given Half a Chance: Ten Ways to Save the World

By Edward Davey

How to address the world’s environmental challenges and make life better and more peaceful for people, nature, and the planet

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Letter to Lara in Lockdown

Letter to Lara in Lockdown

…on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Wednesday 22nd April 2020…

My beloved daughter, Lara,

You were born on Tuesday 7th April 2020 in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London, right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. The midwives all wore protective gear. I was lucky to be present, and cried when I saw that you were a girl, and held you for the first time.

We returned home the following day. Since then, we have been in lockdown: you, me, your mother Davina, and your soon-to-be 3-year-old brother Oli.

We have barely been out, other than to clap for the NHS on the two Thursday evenings in which you have so far been in the world. On each occasion, I held you in my arms on our street, and sent my thanks across the land for the amazingly brave health workers on the front line. How can we ever thank them enough?

It has been the most beautiful of springs, and for the rest of the time we have been fortunate to sit in the sun in our small garden, enjoying as never before the sound of birdsong against the backdrop of London’s quiet streets. I cannot describe to you how amazing it has been to have London’s streets so devoid of cars, its skies so free of planes, and the air so free of pollution.

Throughout this time, my thoughts have been with the future of the world that you, Oli, and all children everywhere, will inhabit.

As we emerge from this crisis, in the months and years ahead, will we pivot in a radically different direction, or will we return to the world as it was before?

Today sees the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – an iconic moment, in which the global environmental moment was born. It seemed a good time to capture three thoughts on how I hope this world of ours will change for the better in the course of your lifetime. I hope by the time you read this letter that it will have done.

Equality

If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how unequal our world is, both within societies as well as across the countries of the world. While no-one is immune, the crisis has a disproportionate effect on the poorest and the most vulnerable. As we emerge from it, I hope we will bring into being a much fairer economy, in every country, as well as globally. Such an economy would be one in which the world’s health workers, carers, teachers, and other critically important key workers (shopkeepers, farmers, cleaners, waste workers, supermarket cashiers, humanitarians … there is a long list) receive a much better wage, commensurate with the astonishing value of the work they do. And it would be an economy which would provide all people with access to decent health care, education, and dignified work. Put simply, I hope this crisis will see an end to the affliction of poverty and inequality in our societies. Enough is enough. We are all in this together, bound together in one human family across societies and nations. A fairer society must emerge, based on the ethic of mutual concern, community, and solidarity which has characterized so much of the public mood over recent weeks.

Climate

We will also need to act to rescue the climate – the climate crisis has not gone away, just because we have been rightly engulfed by the effort to address Covid-19. In truth, the climate emergency continues to dwarf even the pandemic in terms of its magnitude and its existential threat. And yet our response as a human society to the immediate threat posed by Covid-19 has vast outweighed what we have so far achieved in our efforts to address climate change. Perhaps this is an inevitable part of the human condition – we respond to short-term, visceral threats, right before our eyes, and find it harder to address a challenge of the enormity and time-scale inherent in climate change.

But our response to Covid-19 has also shown what is possible, in terms of how a whole society and political system can quickly mobilize when we put our minds to it (and when we listen to scientific experts and abide by their recommendations). And so the next few months and years will be so important: the economic decisions we take as we emerge from Covid-19 will either ruin our chances of saving the climate, or be its salvation. It is our job to ensure the latter. This is truly the moment for a ‘new climate economy’ to take root – and for fiscal stimulus packages around the world intended to address the economic impacts of Covid-19 to be designed in such a way so as to also reduce emissions and increase our resilience to the changing climate, while working to support the poorest and most vulnerable (this must be a ‘just transition’). We owe it to you and to all future generations to do this.  

Nature

Finally, we should also renew our efforts to protect and restore the natural world. Covid-19 heralds to a significant degree from ecological degradation, the loss of natural habitat, and the rise of zoonotic diseases. The world is losing so much of its precious biodiversity at such a precipitate rate, on land and in the ocean. We cannot allow this to continue – and must take the opportunity in the months ahead to establish a new ‘covenant with nature’, as some have called for. The good news is that the natural world can recover astonishingly quickly, if we give it the chance. I want you to grow up in a world in which there are still abundant tropical rainforests and astonishing marine areas, as there are today – it is our duty and our responsibility to ensure that this is the case.

The UN Secretary General called for a global ceasefire earlier this month – a powerful call, which has been heeded at least in some of the world’s conflict areas, although tragically not in others. I hope beyond hope we will see peace in our time: peace in our societies, and an end to war; peace, as represented by an end to the violence of poverty and inequality; and peace, in terms of our relationship with the climate and the natural environment upon which we all depend.

With lots of love from your adoring father, Edward

 

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