You have probably all heard a lot about the Corona virus in the last weeks – and maybe you tend to ignore respective news already. I do not want to talk about numbers of ill people, but just want to mention some thoughts I had on this topic, related to sustainability.
The media (e.g. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/coronavirus-outbreak-slashes-chinas-greenhouse-gas-emissions-200226133935574.html) has reported that China’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined due to the virus as the economy is not fully operating. While the impact on China’s and the international economy has negative sides for many people internationally (some consequences: https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wirtschaft/folgen-des-coronavirus-die-weltwirtschaft-am-tropf-der-chinesischen-konjunktur/25496868.html), a decline in emissions is good for the world – even though, I explicitly do not advocate for reaching emission targets with sicknesses.
However, the consequences of the struggling Chinese economy might be met with artificial boosts of other economies, stimulated by the respective governments. Germany, for example, considers the employment of an economic revival program (https://www.wallstreet-online.de/nachricht/12217319-bericht-regierung-prueft-konjunkturprogramm-corona-folgen). Such programs – depending on their design – might again increase emissions. Mainstream economists have different ideas on how to design such programmes, but in total they all aim again at stabilizing and increasing economic growth (e.g. https://www.wiwo.de/politik/konjunktur/covid-19-und-die-globale-konjunktur-lieber-nachhaltige-wachstumspolitik-als-blinden-aktionismus/25592428.html).
People such as investors and customers are panicking. In Germany, the supermarkets are issuing reassuring statements that they will be further able to provide enough products and food for everyone so that panic-buying is unnecessary and might even aggravate the situation (https://www.focus.de/finanzen/boerse/konjunktur/gefaehrliches-herdenverhalten-bei-corona-hamsterkaeufe-fuehren-zu-noch-mehr-hamsterkaeufen-deutschland-droht-teufelsspirale_id_11721448.html).
In case you still want to have some food reserves (independently of the virus, for any case of emergency), you can have a look at the list in this article (in German: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/notvorrat-mit-diesen-lebensmitteln-kommst-du-10-tage-aus-mit-liste/). The list can also be adapted for vegans and to be generally more sustainable than it currently is, of course 🙂
The whole debate and the reactions of people mainly show me that our system is not very resilient to shock factors, in this case a pandemy, in some years probably climate change. Politicians and economists care mainly for the state and productive capacity of the economy, which is not resilient as it hinges on one country and is easily shaken as soon as China is in trouble. Every region should try to diversify its suppliers of relevant products and establish local supply of the most crucial things for life (food, water, energy, medication, …), in my opinion. You can have a look at my last post on really and less important things. About the confusion between needs and wants you can also read this article: https://medium.com/@hanishbhatia92/the-blurred-lines-of-needs-and-wants-520f6a656149
More diversification and more independence when it comes to life basics would lead to more resilient societies. Then, the whole world would be less shaken when one (big) actor is in trouble. Therefore, long-term oriented consequences should be considered when acting now, even though there might be some urgency to act.
And we should consider if it is still responsible to life in societies which are dependent on economic growth, as this can stall easily. Even without looking at environmental reasons, it might be time to build more resilient societies which are less dependent on growth. (Some considerations on the topic can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/10/can-we-have-prosperity-without-growth) Let’s all work towards sustainable, resilient societies which can prosper in the long run. And, of course, let’s all stay healthy by washing our hands, eating well, relaxing, …
If you want to help a nice, local approach in the meantime, please support the following crowdfunding for a cooperative bio market in Berlin: https://www.startnext.com/gemeinwohl-bioladen
Source of header image: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/1/4336948_871eb73886_b.jpg