Learnings from the 'lockdown'

Was it only a few short weeks ago that we had it all planned out? Watch some sport on the telly, a meal out at that new restaurant on Albert Street, pop round to see the family, maybe a stroll around Fountains Abbey – just a normal week-end, what could go wrong?

Well as it happens quite a lot: global turmoil, a rapidly rising death toll, panic buying, stock markets in a downward spiral, businesses unable to operate, tight controls on civil liberties and restrictions on personal movement.

How could it happen? Why weren’t we warned? Why weren’t we ready?

The reason is simple. As we have found out, responding to a catastrophic pandemic requires changing the way that we do a lot of things, but putting in place those changes just in case a pandemic occurs is just too hard to consider. Public health experts often warn of the threat posed by such pandemics but these warnings are not taken seriously until a crisis actually occurs, at which point money and resources are, all too late, lavished on them to defeat the threat.

We can see similarities in our response to that other looming crisis - climate change.

Not surprisingly the focus on the climate emergency has been lost in recent weeks but there are many useful lessons we can learn from the coronavirus crisis, that can help in the way we respond to the longer-term threat posed by climate change.

As we emerge from this current pandemic, we have a choice, to maintain the positive lifestyle changes that have seen dramatic reductions in air pollution and carbon emissions in our towns and cities, or relapse into complacency and return to lifestyles that threaten our long-term future.

There should be no question. If we are to avoid the kind of turmoil, disruption and restriction on our freedom that we have seen in recent weeks, whilst retaining the benefits to our environment, we must act now and permanently adopt the behavioural changes required to prevent what is already a climate emergency from becoming a climate tragedy.

Whilst there is a foreseeable end to the coronavirus crisis - through the efforts of the NHS and the development of anti-viral drugs - climate change, if allowed to continue without action, has no foreseeable ending.

The rapid and tragic impact of this pandemic, took us all by surprise but we have been able to respond to it and put in place measures to control it. It has required us to change our behaviour, adopt a different approach and find ways to live within the restrictions imposed.