Blue Planet Foundation’s thoughts and positive energy are with all of those suffering from the health consequences of COVID-19 and those who suddenly find themselves struggling with unemployment, food and housing insecurity, or isolation and loneliness. This is an unprecedented and difficult time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rightly pulled our focus to the immediate health and safety of the Blue Planet ohana and our community. Yet we remain steadfast in our mission to inspire and clear the path for climate solutions globally. The challenges that lie ahead are in sharper focus than ever.
This devastating public health crisis is reshaping our world and our work in profound ways. The Blue Planet team has been nimble and swift to adapt our individual behaviors for the greater good. We are working from home and staying connected through “Brady Bunch”-style online video meetings, supporting one another, and engaging in our projects with new perspectives. One of us adopted a one-eyed cat, some of us are rediscovering the joys of running (solo), and all of us are relearning the value of simple pleasures: books, puzzles, movies, time (and even more time) with family. We are continuing our critical clean energy work while maintaining communication with partners, offering virtual presentations for the community, providing enrichment resources for educators, and scheduling Zoom meetings with our Climate Crew of youth advocates.
This period of profound disequilibrium has helped us to reflect more expansively about our work and the looming climate crisis. There are a number of parallels between COVID-19 and climate. Here are three that are emerging as we reflect.
This pandemic lays bare that our fates are tied to our neighbors’, and their fates are tied to everyone around the world. The same is true with climate, where we all have our hands on the Earth’s thermostat. Our individual choices can have far reaching impacts—well beyond our immediate sphere of observation. The pandemic has reminded us that we are globally co-dependent, and that calls on each of us to accept our role in the solution. We cannot ignore or exempt our individual actions thinking that it’s someone else’s responsibility to solve the problem.
Our acute crisis also illuminates the artificial boundaries we’ve established to separate ourselves from others. We are a species fighting for survival—not as an individual or a company or a country, but as a whole. The divisions that too often shape our choices don’t always serve us. We’re all in this together—even when we are socially distant.
It’s striking how a pandemic can disrupt seemingly unbreakable social norms and habits. In a matter of weeks or even days, people across the world are adjusting their ways of life, not only for their own well-being but for the health and safety of those around them. Humanity has stepped up to make sacrifices that previously seemed inconceivable, and we are redefining what’s socially responsible for the greater good.
The urgency in response is also notable. Both the coronavirus and climate are both time-bound challenges—the longer we wait and debate, the more deadly the outcomes. Like coronavirus, climate is a non-linear threat; every week we wait to respond means diminishing hope to “flatten the curve”—on emissions, temperature, and impact tipping points. The pandemic has provided a potent lesson on how critical it is to stay ahead of complex global challenges.
In responding to COVID-19, governments are being called to lead proactively, take bold actions, and implement immediate policy changes. It is amazing to see what is possible when policy is mobilized to address a dire emergency. We’re currently witnessing many leaders step up to do what’s right, even when it’s hard. We need the same leadership on climate, before it’s too late.
The fact that many celebrities and well-known individuals globally have been afflicted by the coronavirus suggests that the disease is a great levelizer. While that may be true in some ways, the deeper truth is that the disease—like the impacts of climate change—discriminates. The more vulnerable, the more economically disadvantaged, and the less privileged among us are the hardest hit. We have seen this time and time again, with the most devastating consequences of climate change—famine, flooding, fires—being suffered by the poorest among us.
While many of us quarantine at home, others have no home to escape to. Access to quality medical care is lumpy, as is access to economic stability and support. Some may receive economic bailouts, while others must fend for themselves. Like climate change, our current public health crisis is exposing the critical need for deep structural and systems changes. It provides an opportunity to re-boot and fix underlying inequities that have consistently left some individuals and communities behind.
The speed and saliency of the coronavirus pandemic has proven powerful at focusing the mind. We hope that when we emerge from this we can retain that focus, and be stronger, smarter, and have an emboldened sense of global resolve to collectively respond to the other crisis of our time: climate change. If we do, today’s youth and generations to come will thank us for leading proactively and acting boldly.
If there is any silver lining about this incredibly dark cloud, it might be that we are seeing a pause in climbing carbon emissions. Satellite imagery from around the world is showing a clear decrease in a variety of pollutants around the world due to the slowdown in carbon-intensive activity. We may be getting a taste of what’s possible, allowing us some perspective of the trade-offs we’re making with contemporary “business as usual.”
We’re seeing some changes in energy consumption in Hawaii, too. At Blue Planet, we’ve been geeking out watching the energy use change on Oahu via our Island Pulse dashboard. Purely anecdotal at this point, but it seems that energy use during the day has decreased markedly. It appears that decrease has cut fossil fuel use, as the percentage of renewable energy use seems much higher than normal for Oahu.
We’ve assembled some resources on this page for your exploration and consideration. We’ll be updating it regularly in the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, you can count on us continuing our important work transforming Hawaii’s energy future and inspiring climate solutions globally. While we are navigating some new challenges, Blue Planet prides itself on taking on the impossible. We are not going to let this threaten our optimism for the future.
The Blue Planet ohana sends positive energy and healthy thoughts to all of you and your families.
The Blue Planet Leadership Team
Jeff Mikulina & Melissa Miyashiro
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