No one alive has ever seen times like the times we’re in right now. One of the challenges of the Pandemic is not being able to ask some of the elders of our communities – our grandmothers and grandfathers – how they handled this kind of a situation when they were young. They can’t tell us… because they never lived through something like this before.
Epidemiologists (infectious disease experts) have spent time and energy in the past 15 years trying to get us ready for the next pandemic. They knew from studying the science of disease and from history that our time for a worldwide pandemic was coming. The problem was that no one really believed them – it seemed like science fiction and it wasn’t the kind of issue any politician could win votes with, so our government and our people didn’t prepare with the kind of supplies or funding that the epidemiologists told us we needed.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina rocked America. We were shocked that a major city could have such a catastrophe and that the strongest, wealthiest country in the world couldn’t fix it. On the news we saw that fellow Americans who had died were unable to be buried. We heard of lawless scenes from The Superdome, then being used as a temporary shelter, that sounded like they came from Lord of the Flies.
In the time that followed, Epidemiologists addressed Americans, warning that the shock we all felt from Katrina needed to cause us to take action to prepare for the next challenge – a global pandemic, for which the world was overdue. Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm went on the Oprah Winfrey Show 14 years ago and predicted with eerie accuracy exactly what we’re going through right now. Here’s a clip:
We are living through an experience we never could have dreamed, even though we were accurately warned by scientists who spent their lives becoming experts in infectious disease.
One of the things they warned us about was that, unlike other disasters, where we can usually ask for help from a city, state or country that is unaffected by the situation, in a pandemic, everyone gets affected and the money for aid becomes scarce for every country, so each family would essentially have to face most of it all on their own. We’re feeling that way now.
So as we band together to make our way through this, we are receiving the same kind of warnings about the future from another group of science experts: climatologists. They have spent their lives studying the science of global weather and climate. And they are saying to us:
Just as you were warned about pandemics, but couldn’t picture what it all meant and therefore turned your attention away from it, we are telling you now as strongly as we can:
The climate is changing in a way that will drastically change our lives for the much worse. And we can slow that down, for the sake of our grandchildren. But we must act now.
Many of us have calmed ourselves down over the years by dismissing this as a political battle instead of a humanitarian crisis. We haven’t read the Pope’s solemn decree Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home), published five years ago, which said that because we have been warned by credible scientists from around the world that this situation is happening, our failure to act is not only irresponsible, it’s a serious sin.
Alright, so let me stop here for a minute. Our plate is full. The Coronavirus is such a big deal, it might be too much to pile another overwhelming challenge on top of it.
I feel that way too. It’s a lot to take when we’re already feeling beaten down.
But there are three reasons why now is the time for us to deal with this:
- Everyone can agree that if there were any way we could have done something to avoid Coronavirus, or at least prepare better for it, we would have.
- In order to save lives, our lifestyles have changed so drastically in such a short time, we now know that we truly are capable of changing the world in the snap of a finger, if we decide together to do it. (If you doubt that, compare what you’re doing today with what you were doing on March 3… Feb. 3… Jan. 3…)
- The climate problem is actually bigger than a pandemic, because Coronavirus will kill a percentage of the human population. A negatively changing climate will take out 100% of us. The dinosaurs prove that.
So, okay, are you ready now for some good news?
- What is happening right now has given us a HUGE head start on tackling this issue. That is because the things we’ve done to flatten the curve are also giving a boost to the planet.
- Further, just as some aspects of this “new normal” are going to be things we want in our life going forward (more family dinners, a less pressured pace of life, better rest, appreciating simpler pleasures), many of these changes will help slow detrimental climate change.
- Some of the things that would help greatly are not hard to do at all.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta led the way in 2015 by taking the Pope’s decree and turning it into practical positive actions for Catholics (and all citizens) to take by breaking them down into those that were easy, moderate or advanced.
You can view the full “Action Plan,” but here are some examples of actions by category…
- Start a small garden, give your children garden chores
- Always use a recycle bin for all paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal
- Avoid drinking bottled water
- At meals, make half your plate vegetables or fruit
- Pick one day a week to go meatless (years ago we used to always do that on Fridays)
- Turn water off when brushing teeth
- Make long showers a treat, not a habit
- Support the local food pantry
- Become informed about environmental issues
- Form a parish “Earth Committee”
- Look at energy costs and switch to cleaner, more renewable energy sources
- Buy items in glass containers rather than plastic
- Buy a hybrid or electric car for your next vehicle
- Use a rain barrel under your gutters for outdoor watering
- Get leaky sinks and toilets fixed
- Go to the Farmer’s Market (when reopened) or use Field Goods to buy local food
- Start a food scrap compost bin and use it to fertilize your garden
- Minimize chemical use
- Look up the “Catholic Climate Covenant” online and sign the pledge
- Get electric car charging stations in our community
- Upgrade your plumbing
- Upgrade your landscaping to one that is water wise
- Plant things that attract pollenators
- Advocate for a school curriculum that promotes care for Creation
- Research good locations for renewable energy farms to be built
(when there are good reasons that it should not be here, research and advocate for a good location where those reasons don’t exist)
Years from now, generations who heard about this amazing time in history will come to us and ask us what living through 2020 was like. Let us plan for those conversations now by making choices that our grandchildren would be proud of, so that we truly can become “The Greatest Generation 2.0.”
Praying for you... for us... and for the world...,