We need a sustainable new normal post- Coronavirus

We need a sustainable new normal post- Coronavirus because what we currently have is not working. I have worked in the sustainability field for the past 18 years across continents. Based on my experience, I have the following perspectives.

There is a need for transboundary cooperation between governments, organizations, communities and individuals because we live in a global community and share the earth’s resources. Industrial activities happening in the northern hemisphere can impact the southern hemisphere. The Famine in Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa (1984), caused by El Nino and currents in the Indian Ocean, is an example. 

A malnourished baby rests on her mother’s lap at the Megenta Kebele clinic in Dubti Woreda, Ethiopia

So, unless there is a way to stop the winds or the ocean’s flow, we are a functioning unit. Understanding we are all responsible for each other, the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development becomes relevant. The achievement of the UN2030 Agenda can be possible only if the goals and targets set are implemented as prescribed and centred around sustainable partnership development (SPD). SPD will require people, organizations, communities, governments, countries, and continents working together from a place where every partnering entity meets its primary objectives for collaboration. The partnership must be transparent, fair, equal, and non-discriminatory to all sides – a win-win for all. I founded EnvironFocus based on this SPD premise.

Mitigating climate change should be part of our new normal

Traditional and scientific data have shown that our climate is changing fast. We can do our part to mitigate the change and slow down the process to avoid unimaginable catastrophe. But what are we doing? We are fighting about whether humans caused climate change or whether it is just a natural process. Post-Coronavirus, our focus should be on working together to understand better its implications to our existence on this earth and how we can reduce our impact to slow the process. Instead, we continue to drill oil in sacred spaces like the Artic, dump chemicals in ports and proceed to unleash disasters on the environment and its inhabitants because of our carelessness and ignorance. We should stop living in denial and recognize that our actions are impacting the environment and people negatively. Why is that so difficult to understand and admit?

Climate is Changing

Our corrupt politics and politicians should understand the need for sustainable actions

Corrupt politics resulting from the quest for resources and power have played a negative role in getting countries and organizations to become more sustainable. We need a sustainable new normal post- Coronavirus. Can our governments put politics aside in making decisions that affect the people and the environment?

corrupt politicians

Playing politics with human beings or the environment has never produced any positive results. See what is currently happening around the world. In America, politics is why they have not been able to get a handle of the Coronavirus pandemic leading to numerous deaths. Indigenous nations do not have access to clean water in a developed country like Canada, because of the politics of these communities and the Federal Government. African governments cannot provide their people with their basic needs because of the politics going on within these countries and outside these countries. Politics is why countries find it difficult to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Why would an organization in Lebanon store 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate unsafely at a warehouse in the port? The Coronavirus has shown that countries that put politics aside and put their people’s well being first make the right decisions and solve problems. And, when people’s well-being is a priority, the environment becomes a priority because the people feed off the environment.

Our current systems are not working because our practices are not sustainable.

We need a sustainable new standard post- Coronavirus because our current systems are not working, resulting from unsustainable practices. In 2018, I was a Speaker at a Biomass Conference. My presentation topic was “The Relevance of Sustainable Practices in the Development of a Bio-economy as Canada Transitions To a Low-Carbon Economic.”

Wood pellets exports

During the presentation, I defined sustainable practices as the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method to address the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. These questions came to mind:

  1. How do we plan to balance agricultural land use for food versus use for industry and export? Especially if perceived to make more economic sense to export bioproducts to other countries?
  2. Is it justifiable to export wood pellets to Europe rather than be used in Canada for economic reasons? Consider the following: i. The Canadian people may have better use of the wood pellet ii. The territories and indigenous people may need wood pellets as feedstock for heat and power. iii. Replacing fossil fuel with wood pellets will reduce the health impact on indigenous communities/Canadians and the environment. iv. It will help Canada meet its targets towards a low carbon economy
  3. How do we ensure that we do not degrade our eco-systems vital to plants and animals to produce a robust bio-economy?

Ethically, we know the right things to do, but the fear is that the right things will impact our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is flawed. 

Our sustainable new normal will require updating our GDP Calculations

The GDP calculation is a linear equation that encourages waste and does not account for environmental or social aspects. It is focused solely on the economic value of the business activity.

Expenditure Approach ( Most Commonly Used): C = Consumer Spending, I = Private nvestment, NX = Net Export
G = Government Spending

I cannot imagine the gloominess in Finance Ministries around the world as they use these GDP calculations as a measure of a thriving economy. GDP for the year 2020 relative to 2019 will be terrible for most countries. There has been limited manufacturing, limited consumer spending, and little or no exports based on the GDP calculations. It is resulting in mass business shutdowns and bankruptcy claims. Should that be the case?

We need a sustainable way of doing business post- Coronavirus. One that focuses on building a more sustainable future for ourselves and our future generations. A future where environmental, economic, social concerns have equal footing in decision-making processes in all sectors and on an individual level.

Obie Agusiegbe
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