The coronavirus pandemic has provoked a social, environmental and economic crisis unparalleled in the modern era. It is widely recognised, however, that crises represent unique opportunities for change. Rebecca Solnit, who specialises in human responses to crises, describes how in a crisis “what is weak breaks under new pressure, what is strong holds, and what was hidden emerges.”
Economies have broken, communities have held and, critically, nature has emerged. From the likely origins of Covid-19, to the historic drop in pollution, to louder birdsong and deserted city streets taken over by wildlife, we have been reminded we are a part of nature, not apart from it. The task now is to embed nature within systemic frameworks so it leads decision-making processes – nature first, not last.
And as the responses to this crisis have already shown, we are moving into uncharted waters. Decisions are being taken and behaviour being changed in ways that would have been unthinkable just weeks before. The crisis is also driving a shift in what is on the table for discussion when it comes to government and business responses.
The specific implications of the pandemic for nature and conservation are still playing out, but some are already clear.