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Emergency lesson

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The emergency action taken to combat coronavirus needs to be applied to other areas, like climate change and biodiversity destruction, says Councillor Paul Donovan (Wanstead Village, Labour)

The coronavirus outbreak has turned life upside down across the world. It has brought unprecedented restrictions on normal life, forcing people to stay at home, distance and isolate.

The present state we find ourselves in also shows people exactly what an emergency looks like. The whole workings of society have been mobilised to counter the threat of the virus. No business as usual, no waiting till the money is available to act – actions have been taken immediately; a matter of life and death.

Many people have said life will never be the same once the virus has passed. This may be true; it should be true. There is, of course, the danger that things will return to business as usual, with this period being viewed as an aberration, unlikely to occur again for some time. It could also mean a doubling up of destructive processes to make up for the time lost during the crisis. This would be a very stupid position to adopt. Lessons need to be learned; life cannot go on as before.

One of the positive developments coming out of the measures taken to counter the virus has been the drop in pollution and emissions – largely due to much of the environmentally damaging activity undertaken on a daily basis having stopped. The suggestion that in China far more people have not died due to cuts in pollution caused by the slowdown in economic activity than have due to the virus is somewhat revealing.

Fish have returned to the waterways of Venice for the first time in decades. There are many other benefits that have come for the environment because the economic juggernaut has slowed, allowing the earth to breathe.

Moving forward to the time after the virus, the same urgency applied to this emergency needs transferring to other threats facing humanity, like climate change, pollution and biodiversity destruction. The positives for addressing these issues for having several months of business not as usual need to be learned and built upon. The economic model must change and change quickly to one that promotes sustainable living and outlaws environmentally destructive practices.

Government at all levels has seen an emergency and just what can be done to address it. Time to transfer the means and approach to environmental matters, not put them on the back burner to a day when things can be afforded.

People will have learned much about themselves and ways of living over this period. Things will change, hopefully for the better. They certainly need to alter for the common good. If the coronavirus has taught nothing else, it must be the importance of living in harmony with nature and coming together to confront adversity at times of trouble.

For information on Wanstead’s own environmental charter, visit wnstd.com/ec