We sacrifice for Covid, so we can fight global warming

COMMENT

It is, in many ways, remarkable.

By taking uncharacteristically decisive and bold action, governments around the world have (sort of) succeeded in (more or less) flattening the Covid-19 curve. 

That said, I think that, by now, most of us are fairly confident that we will spontaneously bash our foreheads in with pointy rocks if we have to hear another unqualified person like me talking about flattening curves.

Anyway, it has been a fairly remarkable thing to watch. Largely because it has involved governments doing the exact opposite of what politicians normally do.

I’m referring to the fact that politicians have voluntarily triggered a recession to (we hope) save lives.


The lockdown has, as we all realised from day one, delivered a swift hammer blow to the groin of multiple economies on different continents. And this was done to help save the lives of people who our society has traditionally not valued at all. It was done to save the lives of older people, the sick and the poor — groups which we have discriminated against shamelessly. 

Granted, it can be argued that politicians did this for political reasons, but that’s the only reason that politicians ever do anything. 

What is really interesting is that we supported these measures. Many people have nothing to fear from Covid-19 unless they are very unlucky. Despite knowing this, people have made genuine financial sacrifices to try to do the right thing and save vulnerable people. 

I think one could fairly easily argue that this may be the most selfless act by a large group of people since … er … I’m not sure, because we as a species are generally not prone to selfless acts. We are generally not quick to recognise good things about our society, and perhaps we should take a moment to acknowledge this one. Humans are capable of good things. We should be encouraged when we see our society doing good and, for a second, be a little bit proud. 

The degree of this sacrifice leads one to think of another debate where the idea of sacrificing economic growth for the sake of other people has been hotly discussed: the environmental crisis.

For years, activists have been telling us that the only way to prevent climate catastrophe is to take decisive measures to curb industries that pollute, but some argue that could negatively affect economic growth. 

Yet politicians have repeatedly told us that voters will never support such measures because we are not willing to make the sacrifice involved. 

And while for years it seemed that they were right in thinking this, maybe they have been wrong.

Because the willingness with which we have entered the lockdown to save a small number of people would seem to indicate that our capacity for sacrifice may be greater than any of us (especially politicians) think.

We just have to ask ourselves if we are as willing to sacrifice to save our grandchildren as we have shown ourselves to be when it came to trying to save older people, the sick and the poor from Covid-19.

And, personally, I think we have shown that we are capable of doing big, difficult things. 

Perhaps we just need politicians to make big polluting industries — the major contributors to the climate crisis — see that. 

John Davenport is the chief creative office of Havas Southern Africa.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

John Davenport
John Davenport is the chief creative officer of Havas Southern Africa.

Related stories

There are useful lessons to learn from the generation of the 1986 emergency

The parents of the 2020 crisis have little say about their children’s education

Miss Rona’s teaching the 4IR lessons

Schooling is stuck in the 1950s, but technology must be blended with the basics of education

Caring for students goes beyond the teaching project

The Covid-19 pandemic gives universities an opportunity to find new ways of ensuring the health and well-being of students

Teachers trying to catch up, ‘ticking boxes’, overloading learners

Teachers who spoke to the Mail & Guardian this week are not confident that any effective teaching and learning will take place during this academic year, even if it is extended

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

Covid-19 is taking its toll on people’s state of mind

The future is uncertain, and the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression is rising
Advertising

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

No proof of Covid-19 reinfection, yet

Some people report testing positive for Covid-19 after initially having the disease and then testing negative. Scientists are still trying to understand if this means that reinfection is possible
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday