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Wake up people, this is not a drill

Cat James
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It’s hard to type while I’m holding my head in my hands, but I’ll have a go. This isn’t a drill; it really is the ultimate global emergency we are facing, isn’t it? The catastrophic effects of this could mean the end of humankind. Even without that end-of-days scenario, societies might be reformed and remodelled in ways unthinkable only a few months ago.

Faced with imminent death, people are mostly heeding the warnings. Of course there will always be folks who act in their own self-interest, even if it is against the common good. But hopefully people will have had the wake up call that is needed to consider changing their behaviour for the benefit of all.

It started with planes being grounded. Those implausibly cheap flights have been proven to be unsustainable; profit margins must’ve been so tight they squeaked. With a sudden unscheduled decrease in demand, the bubble finally burst and aeroplanes metaphorically fell out of the sky. The aviation industry took a hit; Flybe was the first to succumb to this new normal – and undoubtedly more airlines will follow.

On the ground, people are moving about less. Cars remain undriven, except to hunt and gather supplies. Even those who think that driving their dog so it can crap away from their own neighbourhood is essential travel, might hopefully be rethinking their actions and emptying their mutt within walking distance of their homes.

The result of grounded flights and mindful travel is a whopping improvement in air quality. As more people work from home, and connect with their friends and loved ones virtually rather than face-to-face, the effect is astonishing – and instant. The data shows drops in tiny particle pollution of a third to a half in some of the country’s major cities.

Only essential purchases are being made; food, medicine, cleaning products. All but key shops have closed. Retailers who would try and persuade us to spend money we don’t have buying stuff we don’t need, are shut. Pointless doodads, made of the earth’s precious resources, sit unbought. Slave-made garments remain unworn – locked away in budget boutiques – as people rediscover or remodel vintage items in their existing wardrobes. The things we do need can mostly be brought to us. One delivery van on the streets, instead of hundreds of individual vehicle movements.

People are learning new skills. Folks are home-baking like their lives depend on it; not buying factory-produced processed foods made with unprovenanced meat and full of weird unhealthy fats and additives.

Young ‘uns – all of us – are learning how to have analogue fun. If we are lucky enough to have a garden, we’re valuing the green space; enjoying sights, sounds and smells of springtime – up close and personal.

So finally we have woken up to the potential apocalypse and have changed our behaviour. When the muck well and truly hits the fan, we’ve shown we can all pull together. So, that’s the climate emergency finally taken notice of. Let’s now turn our attentions to COVID-19.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 3 April 2020, and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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