Published 09 April 2020
Produced by SEI Deputy Director, Michelle St Anne.
It’s hard to believe that it was only three months ago that we returned to the SEI office after the Christmas break and the horrors of New Year’s Eve. The windows had been shut tight against the smoke that hung thick over Sydney, as we sat, lost for words, publishing a news post that didn’t welcome or celebrate the new year, that instead mourned a profound loss.
And today, working from our living rooms, our grieving has been interrupted. The images of the blood red skies above Mallacoota residents take on a new significance – it’s their N95 masks that are most noticeable now.
Those of us who braved the ashen skies in November, December and January to buy face masks, unsure of what the future would hold, certainly could never have predicted that these masks would not only be sold out state-wide, but globally, in just a few short weeks.
When we complained about the thick smoke that prevented us from going outside, sometimes for days at a time, we never could have imagined that we could soon be confined to our homes, by law, for weeks or more.
And now, here we are. It feels like we barely had a second to revel in the luxury of fresh air and to catch our breath before holding it once more, sheltering from another amorphous, unprecedented threat carried in the air, even though the skies are finally blue.
But as our Director David Schlosberg recently pointed out – it isn’t as though we didn’t see this coming. Like with climate change, and the east-coast bushfires, the threat of a global pandemic has been predicted by epidemiologists for decades. We chose not to listen, not to prepare.
These crises disproportionately affect those who are already most vulnerable. Health impacts aside, just this week data shows that the NSW Police Force has been out in droves fining people in Sydney’s south-west for violating social distancing laws, despite the majority of violations, and cases, arising in the more affluent eastern suburbs. The so-called ‘essential workers’ who are now risking their safety on our front-lines, as cashiers, delivery drivers and sanitation workers are mostly doing so on the minimum wage. We are seeing a weaponisation of the divide between individuals, nations and species for political gain. But we are also seeing remarkable acts of compassion, generosity, unity and resilience.
Now, more than ever, the promise we made in January, that 2020 would be a year of continued action and lasting change, still rings true.
Corona and Climate Series
The global upheaval we have witnessed in a few short weeks is absolutely unprecedented. The climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic run many tragic parallels, but the scale and swiftness of the coronavirus’s spread means that change is happening right now, in every corner of the world, offering a unique opportunity for renewed action, critical analysis and a chance to revolutionise systemic structures of inequality, division and injustice.
Our next article series, Corona and Climate, authored by a diverse range of our internationally recognised scholars, focusses on questions of resilience, adaptation and justice in the face of global crisis.
With the depth of multi-disciplinary expertise carried by our extensive network of researchers and the lived experiences of our local communities, we hope to shed light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic locally and internationally while critically analysing the intersections with the escalating climate crisis.
The series will explore the consequences of crises for finance and industry, welfare, multispecies justice, environmental policy, immigration, institutionalised racism, public infrastructure and urban design, mental health and more.
The world will not, and should not, return to normal. By diving into the uncomfortable questions and opening new doors for unlikely collaborations, above all we hope to open up a space where we can come together to imagine and fight for a better future.
We look forward to bringing the first article in the series to you soon, and if you are interested in contributing as an author, please contact the series’ managing editors Liberty Lawson and Genevieve Wright.