Today [22 April] is Earth Day but as our lives have been turned upside down by the global COVID-19 pandemic will anyone take notice?
Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 22/04/2020
I believe there will be an increased level of virtual participation in this 50th edition of the campaign. The pandemic has raised our level of understanding of how fragile our way of life is and that Earth Day and similar initiatives are not only about ‘saving the planet’.
The scope has expanded to people from all walks of life questioning the unspoken rules of government, economies and big business. The digital chatter has escalated to questioning social norms and the urgent need to challenge the divide between rich and poor.
Worldwide, national lockdowns have inspired individuals and businesses to reinvent themselves. Meanwhile, governments are in disaster management mode to help communities and businesses who won’t survive the crushing effects of the lockdown.
Surely this is a turning point for the world at large?
A vivid illustration of this change was reported by Bloomberg yesterday. Shipping tankers carrying enough crude oil to satisfy 20% of the world’s daily consumption could be seen tendering off the Californian coast with nowhere to go.
How unfathomable is that? At least these tankers are acting as floating storage facilities for a market that has dried up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic closing national borders and putting countries into lockdown mode.
This is just one example of how unsettled the world is right now. Post-pandemic, the future threat that is likely to unfold is around funding being diverted away from African development needs.
It will be up to Africa’s governments to act swiftly in the pursuit of economic transformation to soften the blow of international bodies turning their focus inward and elsewhere.
Who knows, this could be the turning point for the continent to increase the uptake of technology in urban and rural electrification, progressing large eco-transportation networks, and stimulating a construction industry focused on green affordable housing complexes.
It’s a future that could work for everyone but can only materilise where strong political will is in evidence.
Stay safe. Until next week.