Updated: Aug 22
COVID-19 has given all of us all plenty to think about. We’re exposed to a constant stream of viral information through social media, traditional media and everyone around us. Personally and professionally, we’ve been faced with safety considerations, financial implications and major lifestyle changes. It appears everything in our lives must be viewed through a coronavirus-lens as we adapt to life during a pandemic.
Throughout Australia and the rest of the world, everyone – including outdoors people and outdoor businesses, as well as climate activists and climate groups, have had to make some tough decisions about how to proceed.
On an unprecedented scale millions of people everywhere have had work, school, travel and various other activities called off. Likewise, outdoor education programs were swiftly cancelled (seemingly overnight) as schools culled extracurriculars, and the outdoor tourism sector is struggling with the rapid decline of global and domestic travel. Meanwhile, climate groups have cancelled rallies, actions, meetings, and training sessions – even Extinction Rebellion’s upcoming international wave of rebellion has been temporarily canned.
It’s as if life as we know it has been postponed indefinitely. And whilst these restrictions work to protect our health and safety, they will have serious impacts on people’s wellbeing and livelihoods. Certainly, we’ll have to look after ourselves and each other during this tough time
What are outdoor educators and guides to do? Those I’ve spoken to have had a variety of ideas. Maybe a quiet, extended Australian road trip. What about that long walk on the bucket list? Netflix, veggie gardens and surfing. Or for those looking for work, stocking shelves at Coles after they’ve been stripped by panic buying is on option, as is trying one’s hand at fruit picking – an industry in need after losing its supply of backpackers.
We've got our fingers crossed that all of the Australian outdoor businesses will find a way to cope with less or no business for the next while. We hope to see all outdoor equipment and service providers back in action once the coast is clear.
Thankfully, we still have access to outdoors places (as long as they aren't shut from this summer's fires), and outdoor activities could prove to be a great way to spend time whist observing social distancing.
As for the climate activists, there's no doubt the situation has been a tough pill to swallow - just as the movement was gaining exponential momentum both here and abroad, what seems like the biggest spanner was thrown in the works. When an epidemic interrupts the workings of the world, but your ongoing work is essential to the safety and wellbeing of people now and in the future (by mitigating the devastating effects of increasing global warming) what are you to do?
Well, it appears the people of the climate movement have had a good hard think and have answered that question.
What seems to be the universal answer is this:
We will accept the reality of the current crisis and embrace the science of COVID-19.
To be expected really considering that’s exactly what the movement did when addressing climate change.
Public health and safety are paramount, with special consideration needed for the most vulnerable.
Climate Justice is a humanitarian goal, and coronavirus is a humanitarian threat. Everyone must take responsibility to behave safely, thus protecting all people.
The climate movement will not pause, instead we will change the way we work.
It’s recognized that some people will need to take a break to focus on their personal lives during this difficult time. But for those who are able and willing, the effort continues.
And so while the vast majority of in person interactions, in the climate movement, are cancelled until the threat passes, there has been a great wave of moving the work online. Australian groups that campaign for climate action have creatively reshaped the way they operate. Some groups have said they’ll use part of this time for planning, to have the best strategies in place when the epidemic passes. Most are providing increased meetings and trainings through video-conference. And most interestingly, direct-action itself is being moved online. When so many of us are going to spend more time on screens, either in quarantine, having reduced employment or while social distancing – there’s never been a better time to campaign remotely, while there’s a captive audience.
And will there ever be a better time than now, for the world to slow down and reflect upon what’s most important? The outdoors teaches us that from challenge, we can learn and grow. During these tough months, maybe collectively our time would be well spent considering what we want the world to look like on the other side of this pandemic. With so much cancelled, at present business-as-usual seems tenuous. When we go back to the drawing board, rebooting our work and lives, what will be different, what do we want to be different?
Whether you’re a seasoned campaigner or new to climate action, right now there are endless opportunities to impart positive change in humanity’s response to the climate crisis. You could learn more about the climate crisis and its solutions. Why not have meaningful conversations, about climate change, with those around you? Maybe connect with a group that’s campaigning for a safe climate future - there are dozens of such groups in Australia who are keen for more people to assist. There are plenty of independent actions you can take from home: whether it’s divesting your money, writing to your MP or switching to green electricity.
As Greta Thunberg says, what you do counts. And during this COVID-19 Pandemic, perhaps it has never been more apparent that not only are we living history, we are creating it.