We at Green New Real stand in solidarity with the fight against police brutality, systemic racism and white supremacy. We cannot aim to grapple with and discuss issues of the climate crisis without acknowledging environmental racism and how it connects to other forms of institutional violence and oppression. We take this moment to deepen our commitment to learning, listening, participation, allyship, and anti-racism. Our path out of the climate crisis and recovery from COVID-19 will be led by frontline communities and with the explicit goal of racial and economic justice.
While we collectively hold the global trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic, how can we use the insight gleaned during this time of crisis to reshape our world ecologically?
The Green New Real is a global gathering place for news articles, data, discourse, and everyday evidence of positive changes in the natural world and people’s lives as a result of recent global shutdowns. Climate change is a deadlier long-term issue that affects the well-being of all of us. But, like COVID 19, it disproportionately harms marginalized populations and exposes economic and racial inequalities. How can those of us with the privilege and capability adapt to using fewer resources? How can we translate our goals into legislative action? And how can we move forward with an approach that is more sustainable to all populations on earth?
The everyday evidence is here: less consumption, decreased air and car travel, and regional food sourcing is helping air quality and CO2 emissions, while also revealing and reminding us how much we share the earth with animals. Now is the time to move forward with a more thoughtful state of living. Together, we can build a global case for the Green New Real.
As the COVID-19 pandemic creates terrible deaths and suffering for people across the globe, it is important to recognize that there are other effects that the virus is having as well: decreased air and car travel, increased walking and biking, working from home, reduced industrial manufacturing and waste, a curbing of consumer excess, upticks in home gardening and cooking, greater interest in community-supported agriculture (CSA), among other things.
The negative effects cannot be outweighed or balanced by the positive impacts on the environment and climate change mitigation. But it is worthwhile to acknowledge that global interventions to address the spread of the pandemic are similar to what is needed to change the course of human-created climate change. In the past, examples of behavioral and systematic intervention and change were mostly theoretical and hypothetical; effectiveness could only be estimated. Now, with a jarring clarity, we know that these things are possible.
Scientists have noted that the positive effects on the environment that we are currently experiencing will be undone in short order as we loosen restrictions, and travel and industry come back online. But as we restore our physical, economic, emotional, and spiritual health, perhaps we can use the knowledge and insight gleaned during this time of crisis to reshape things ecologically as well. Instead of environmental transformation by means of disaster or pandemic, we can now make deliberate and impactful personal decisions while also working to persuade governments and companies to pursue beneficial initiatives.
The pandemic further exposed and exacerbated economic and racial disparities, and anything that aims to be restorative or transformative must address and dismantle these injustices going forward. An acknowledgment of interconnectivity and interdependence is crucial.
One common concern is that the economic impact of the crisis, including massive layoffs and unemployment, is at odds with the potential for ongoing improvements in the slowing of climate change. Yet, a robust economy and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive. As the US and other governments produce huge aid packages, they have the opportunity to shift from supporting the perpetuation of jobs that increase CO2 emissions and instead initiate a works progress-type program that supports green jobs, like installing solar panels.
Within this broader context and conversation, we wanted to create a resource for the coverage—journalistic, scientific, anecdotal—on the environmental effects of global shutdowns. We also hope to encourage more writing, discussion, and research on these topics, and more governments and people to make changes.
Additionally, we realized that one intriguing development during this crisis has been the reliance and interest in the many statistical trackers and models, which provide crucial information and predictions. This constantly updated data allows people to track their own behavior in relation to where they live. We’ve seen the efficacy of our physical distancing mitigation efforts and have been able to compare them to other locations in real-time. It occurred to us that it might be useful to have similar indexes that monitor our carbon use and impact on the environment, ones that allow us to compare the data of different cities, states, and countries. That part is much harder for us to do on our own, so we are looking for existing statistics and hoping to connect with organizations, universities, and individuals with expertise in those areas who can help us bring such information to the public via our platform.
Finally, we are inviting you, the public, to participate as witnesses on the ground – by submitting your own observations about positive changes you see in your lives, and in the place, you live and work. This way we can appreciate changes at everyday levels that form a larger, international picture. Together, we can build a global case for the green new real.
Carrie Brownstein is a writer, director, and musician. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Harrell Fletcher is an artist and educator. He is the founder and director of the Portland State University MFA in Art and Social Practice.
Addee Kim is a student, farmer, and filmmaker from New York. They are currently living in San Diego, California.
Eric John Olson is an artist, organizer, and software architect. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
Salty Xi Jie Ng 黄晞竭 is an artist from Singapore living between the tropics and the US.
Special thanks to Beth Gilden, Yael Kidron, Cleveland Leffler, Tom Leimkuhler, Sarah Minnick, Jordan Rosenblum, and the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions.