This is a frightening and unprecedented time in our world. People around the globe are getting sick, others are sheltering in their homes or working double shifts at hospitals, grocery stores, and warehouses.

Despite all the damage the pandemic has caused and the danger it still holds, this time provides us with a unique opportunity to change the way we respond to other global crises, to reorient ourselves to the Earth and to one another.

While the strangeness of this time is unpredictable and worrisome, it also lays open a path for a future we hadn’t thought possible, a future in which people regularly check on their neighbors and connect more deeply with their friends, a future in which essential workers are paid a living wage and appropriately recognized for their efforts, a future in which global powers take real steps to mitigate climate change.

We have seen a global outburst of compassion, people everywhere making sacrifices for family and strangers alike. We have seen the creation of art and the convergence of peoples, the sharing of resources and the flexibility of our conception of normal.

If a time of tragedy and fear can breed love and togetherness, perhaps we, as humans, are more capable than we have credited ourselves.

Let’s take this spirit and compassion as we tackle the greatest existential threat that we face: climate change.

Like the Coronavirus, climate change is a global threat to public health, racial and socioeconomic equity, and the economy. Both are extremely serious crises that affect the entire world and require large-scale social and political action. 

The Coronavirus struck the world just a few months ago, rapidly escalating into a global pandemic that has shut down worldwide economies and societies as we know them. Over 123,000 people have died and tens of millions are out of work. 

Climate change has been accelerating since the industrial revolution, as emissions slowly build in the atmosphere and natural climate solutions, like rainforests, disappear. We have known about the threat for many years and have made very few adjustments to slow its impact.

The commonalities between the two crises suggest that we may need to tackle them both with similar methods. Climate action would not require everyone to shelter in place, but it would require the declaration of a state of emergency by the United States and other nations.

It would require providing aid to the most vulnerable and seeking environmental justice. It would require making sacrifices for the good of the Earth and our species.

CREDIT: Martin Edström

We must realize that both threats were exacerbated or even initiated by deforestation and biodiversity loss. Research has found that our relentless encroachment into wild spaces and our destruction of habitat has brought us in closer contact with wildlife and disease we would not normally encounter.

Moreover, the loss of forest removes essential ecosystems that sequester carbon, exacerbating the warming in our atmosphere. In order to protect ourselves from pandemics and protect the planet from further instability, we must stop deforestation and conserve the remaining global biodiversity. 

While these existential notions linger, let’s acknowledge the need for a global pause, a collective rethinking, a momentous bridging of ideas.

Let’s take a moment to slow down and enjoy the little things that make our world so magnificent.

Moving forward, we have the chance to conduct ourselves differently, to move through life with a little bit more empathy, to be a little bit more grateful for what we have, to prepare ourselves better for disaster, and to not shy away from drastic measures.

For those of you struggling right now: We see you. We hear you. Rainforest Partnership thrives on partnerships, connection, reciprocity. We are here for you in this hard time.

The earth is healing. Let’s take a collective breath. One that permeates borders, race, religion, occupation. We can only get through this time and move forward stronger if we appreciate our shared humanity, our shared identity as inhabitants of this Earth.

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