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By Professor Vishwas Satgar*
The coronavirus is an opportunity to end the war with nature. It’s a moment to be humble and realise our finitude in a wondrous and infinite natural order.
Covid-19 pushed an already weak and crisis-ridden global economy over the edge and its geo-politics, which has engulfed the entire globalised world in its rapid spread, is a shot across the bow of carbon capitalism.
The reality is that climate crisis worsens with a lack of will to phase out fossil fuels and decarbonise.
We are facing a 1.5°C increase in planetary temperature most likely in the next five years, which will be accompanied by intensifying climate shocks. These crises will become interconnected, cascade into each other and push our socio-ecological orders towards collapse.
Elite use and consumption of fossil fuels is linked directly to extreme weather shocks such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and cyclones, for instance, which impact those most vulnerable the hardest.
There are three considerations to address the imbalances, with each being critical if we are to enable nature to reverse the climate damage that we as humans have caused.
First, in the South African context the country will need an eco-justice stimulus package to tackle the impacts of Covid-19, the economic crisis and worsening climate crisis. South Africa’s Climate Justice Charter is a crucial point of departure in this regard.
Second, a war approach to Covid-19 ls based on dangerous philosophical foundations. It continues the anthropocentric conquest of nature which is central to capitalist thinking.
Killing Covid-19 from this war-based framework is about us being the dominant species as we attempt to demonstrate superiority to the forces of nature. This is really a conceit which fails to understand that nature has been and will always be more powerful than us.
With Covid-19 we are really trying to mitigate the revenge blow from nature. It’s a moment to be humble and realise our finitude in a wondrous and infinite natural order. We are just one little part of a vast and delicate web of life.
As such, ending Covid-19 should be about ending the war with nature. This includes ending wet markets for exotic animals, ending globalised industrial agriculture and rapidly phasing out fossil fuels.
Third, the war on Covid-19 keeps us bound up in an ethical knot and derives from deeply oppressive ways of thinking. Violence whether colonial, imperial, patriarchal, racist or eco-cidal is not what the world needs.
A world led by those who place profit above human and non-human life is placing us all in jeopardy. Complex and holistic systems thinking that is grounded in an ethics of care, rather than war, has to prevail.
- Professor Vishwas Satgar is an Associate Professor of International Relations at Wits University. He edits the Democratic Marxism series, is principal investigator for Emancipatory Futures Studies and has been an activist for four decades. He is the co-founder of the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign, Climate Justice Charter process and Chairs the Board of the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC).
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