Post coronavirus: the future is what we build together

Community action has been at the heart of how we’ve faced the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s how we’ll deal with the climate crisis too. Director of Engagement Maria Castellina reflects on the health crisis, and what we might hope for once the lockdown is lifted.
  Published:  29 Apr 2020    |      3 minute read

The UK has been on lockdown for just over a month and it’s been a difficult time for many of us, filled with ill health, anxiety and financial worry. There's no denying that community is as important now as it’s ever been.

We’ve seen neighbours come together to support the most vulnerable. Retired health professionals returning to work despite the risks to their own health. Outpourings of love and community and support, that people would try to tell you didn’t exist in the modern world.

COVID-19 is a reminder of our humanity and our shared human frailty. But it's also a reminder of our collective strength and resilience when we act together. And it's this sense of community, at both local and global level, that's going to help see us through this crisis to the world we want to build on the other side.

Supporting our community

Over the past month we've been focused on supporting and strengthening our community groups, locally and globally. We've worked with our network to deepen their connections with one another and provide them with the tools and training they need to meet virtually, as well as providing support and solidarity to our sister organisations around the globe.

We cannot underestimate the long-term devastation that this pandemic will bring. We know there will be severe financial hardships for many, that more and more people are turning to foodbanks to survive. That many of us are experiencing loss and grief for loved ones, and the life we had before.

But while we're all weathering the same storm, we're not in the same boat. As with most crises, the most vulnerable among us are being hardest hit.

Coronavirus and inequality

In the UK, the lockdown has exposed sharp differences in people’s access to quality green space – so vital for our physical and mental health. We all need to get outdoors, but for those without a garden and/ or a park nearby, the lockdown feels even more claustrophobic. Park closures (due to fears of overcrowding) have disproportionately affected those from poorer communities and BAME backgrounds

And around the world, huge differences in access to healthcare mean that our chances of survival aren't equal from country to country. If the pandemic takes hold in parts of Africa with limited access to medical equipment (like ventilators), the consequences could be devastating. 

Many of our issues – the climate crisis, destruction of nature, trade, poverty, food and health – are interlinked and reform in one area won’t be enough to address the imbalance. We need to look at the whole. 

Crisis and opportunism

Friends of the Earth has also been keeping a close eye on those who would use this crisis to push though activity that would be devastating to our environment. We’ve told UK Trade Minister Liz Truss not to race into a toxic trade deal with Trump. While all eyes are focused on dealing with the pandemic Trump mustn’t be allowed to sneak through a deal that could cause the environmental and safety standards of the products in our shops to plunge.

Despite the pandemic, UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss is keen to start negotiations on a toxic trade deal with the US. Now is not the time.

 

Can the pandemic help us reimagine the world?

There'll be a time when we can breathe deeply again, when we can step outside and either choose to return to a world that was crumbling, or step forward into a fairer, more sustainable world.

What would it look like if cars no longer dominated our streets? And planes weren’t constantly zooming overhead? If everyone could access green space, and nature had room to thrive. If big business was operated for the benefit of people and planet, and not solely profit. If we didn’t spend hours a day commuting, but spent time with our communities instead.

For too long our economy and society has been unbalanced, with resources and wealth concentrated in the hands of too few and too little regard shown for our planet and all of us who depend on it. But as we rebuild after this crisis, we will have a choice to make about what we want the world to look like.

Community action has been at the heart of how we’ve faced this pandemic, and it’s how we’ll deal with the climate crisis too.

Friends of the Earth will be working with our community groups across the country to push for a recovery that is green and fair and sustainable. One which puts people and planet first. A recovery that helps us to deal with the other crises we face, including the climate and nature emergency. 

We are all part of one global community, and we need to co-operate to solve global problems. The future is what we build together.