Life After COVID-19 Outbreak: Protecting the Economy Whilst Keeping Up With Nature
We cannot neglect that COVID-19 has created a huge negative economic in our life. Economic activities are urged to put to a halt because of the containment policies. But do we realize that it is a wake-up call to save our world?
Despite the microscopic size of the virus, COVID-19 was invisible even when there is an augmentative toll until we see it happening in our neighbourhood. It was like a piece of news from a country where too many might never think or ever stepped our feet there. IMF predicts it as the cause of the biggest economic plummeting growth since 1930 for 8% globally (Ehnts & Paetz, 2021). Geographically, it will get worse for countries that are marginally secluded due to their climate and agricultural productivity features (Castells-Quintana, Lopez-Uribe, & McDermott, 2018).
A lot of lower-middle-income households were and are in shock of this phenomenon as the economy is beating slower. It turns out that weather risk becomes the core source of the income downturn, and there is a potential that it will get worse, particularly for low-income households who are highly reliant on agriculture and lack access to finance when they need it (Castells-Quintana et al., 2018). Slowly but sure, we will all become affected by climate change.
The world already takes one step closer to tackle climate change by holding The Paris Agreement in 2016. The aim is to keep the increasing temperature below two (2) degrees Celsius. However, it has not been able to get all countries to embark on the climate justice pursuit together. Unfortunately, society is not fully aware of the earth's current situation and the long-term impacts of the warming world. They have been trying hard to satisfy their hedonistic lifestyle by doing unnecessary activities and purchasing unnecessary products.
Thinking of how to minimise wasted energy from the day-to-day activity is necessary. For instance, a business meeting does not have to be organised with a physical site visit in order to result in positive outcomes for the companies. Attending a party does not mean one has to eat every type of food that is offered. Buying clothes for one-time use because of their ‘cute’ looks also contributes to climate injustice. What one takes and ends up not consuming becomes a waste. These lead to increased environmental damage to the earth which ends up violating our lives. There is a lack of realisation of what this can do to the future generation of mankind. Being conscious of what is truly needed is crucial and we need it now more than ever.
Climate Change and The Economy
Almost all the secondary and tertiary goods and services were automatically experiencing lower demand from the customers. When income plummeted, both demand and purchasing power declined. Society is being forced to readjust their monthly spending as well as their daily staple needs.
Realising that people need adjustment, in response to this situation, the Indonesian Government has already taken necessary actions to help low-income households by reducing the burden of fulfilling primary needs. For instance, the Government is becoming more tolerant in terms of tax payments, electricity bill payments. Furthermore, the Government also helped deprived households in providing staple food.
But the inability of deprived households in fulfilling their basic needs is not merely an economic issue. Think for a second about food waste. In Indonesia, each person contributes 300 kg of food waste per year (Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, 2021). Multiplying it to the total Indonesian population of 270.2 million (BPS, 2020) makes it to 81.06 billion kg of food waste per year. The number is huge enough to keep the deprived households from hunger during this pandemic. Besides, preventing food waste is also a way to protect the earth.
Similarly, the intersection between climate change and work in the transportation sector is clear. The work-from-home (WFH) policy has created a negative effect on the lives of informal workers and the transportation sector. For instance, ride-hailing drivers are no longer able to drive individuals who usually commuted from home to the workplace. Likewise, the sudden suspension of long-distance traveling meant less fuel usage. But it also meant less unnecessary spending by society. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey (2020) between April to September 2020, people began to reduce their spending on traveling and transportation for business matters. People have been embracing working remotely by using video calling application since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Climate change is the first wake-up call. As people did not manage to take enough concrete action with the worsening climate condition, COVID-19 came as if it is the second wake-up call that people should realise. In times of COVID-19, society starts to do what is appropriate, adjusting with the current condition, which eventually saves a lot more energy and money than we ever expected.
Is it better for the economy? Yes, but things always go awry in the beginning. Adjustment and innovation are the keys. Adjustment in terms of being conscious in spending and doing activities. Meanwhile, innovation in economic activities, including promoting environmentally-based business, can help the speedy recovery from COVID-19 whilst bringing us a thousand steps closer to climate justice.
During this moment of pause, we are urged to think further about the next step to address climate change. Adaptation is the way to survive. Being discreet regarding where and how we spend our money; allocating our budget efficiently and only to resources that we actually need is a tiny step that can lead to climate justice.
We should be aware of how to consume and shop mindfully. We have drowned in entrenched capitalism for a long time, pursuing growth, that we forget to keep up with nature. If only we would like to think profoundly, COVID-19 alerts human beings on what to do in return to the earth. Take and give is not only between humans but also between nature. As Greta Thunberg says, 'our house is on fire,' in this COVID-19 situation we have, 'stay at home for the one you love.' A simple yet generates massive impacts to our economy, our future economy. Now, love your earth, for your future generation, for our future generation.
Vita Arumsari is a graduate of Durham University Business School in Islamic Finance. As a researcher, she focuses on sustainability and social issues in relation to the welfare of society.
This article is featured in JUSTIN Development Review (JDR) Vol. 01 Issue 01 — June 2021.society.