By: George Kurzom
Urban cycling contributes greatly to a resilient, environmentally sustainable and healthy economy
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
One important challenge now facing environmental organizations is the necessity to disseminate a message to the public outlining the benefits of the green exit strategies from the Corona pandemic. Everyone talks about the fact that they are breathing better now, yet this may be forgotten tomorrow. The question is how to make this new environmental reality that materialized during the pandemic –cleaner air and significant reduction in emissions and consumerist practices that are destructive to the environment and public health– an intrinsic value worth preserving and building upon? The problem is in the inability to imagine alternatives to the consumerist reality that is now commonplace. The economic-social system is fervent to sustain itself; our mission however is to burst that bubble.
Many say that for us to have public transportation and proper bicycle routes, we probably need few years. Corona however has showed that we can make changes unexpectedly quickly. All of a sudden, we started seeing how things are taken care of very quickly. The chaos of residential and commercial buildings in our cities during the recent years has created urban concrete “desert” slums (in terms of destroying the green space, ecosystems, and the climate). Buildings, roads, and parking areas “proliferate” without any green spaces, local shops (to market local and national products), or live public spaces. What we have done in the past few decades is the exact opposite of what our resilience necessitates; a reality that only affirms how dire our need is for environmental urban planning.
It is easy to list the threats facing the environment as we try to emerge from the epidemical crisis. Post-Corona measures may write off great achievements by the environmental movement during the recent years. First and foremost, there is a concern that governments and companies may take advantage of this situation to ease environmental regulations and restrictions, as well as showing leniency towards violations. It seems that a matter such as green energy is now less important compared to the soaring rise in unemployment, or the significant drop in oil and coal prices. This only makes renewable energy economically less viable. Environmentalists predict that this “victory” is short-lived. The Corona pandemic is truly grave; nonetheless, the climate crisis is no less dangerous; that is, scientists predict large numbers of victims due to this crisis.
New Radical Thought
The progressive left in the United States has met the Corona crisis with what is known as the “shelf plan” to get out of the crisis – namely the “Green New Deal” (GND). The plan addresses public investments on a large-scale in an effort to move to a circular green economy, one that is free of fossil fuels (gas, oil, and coal). The original “New Deal” dates back to the 1930s (during the Great Depression) and had included a significant environmental component. As a part of the “New Deal”, the American government commissioned unemployed people to plant a billion trees. In addition, the touristic routes and the parks and gardens established in that era were also part of the “New Deal”. When we look for a way out of this epidemic crisis, it is in our reach to seize the opportunity to save people from unemployment and make a leap in the green direction. The Corona pandemic cries out to us to wake up and face the upcoming crises, when there is no doubt that the climate crisis is the gravest one.
The climate crisis, unlike the Corona epidemic, can be accurately predicted with broad accuracy to what will happen in about twenty, forty, or sixty years. This issue is not just an environmental matter, but also a strategic and existential one. The starting point should be that living in a healthy environment will enhance our ability to better deal with crises. We have no choice but to articulate this understanding and capture this historic moment to develop a new radical thinking focused on local production that is based on local resources and production inputs. Moreover, to break-free of the bloated and pathetic consumerism trends, and to provide free healthcare and free public transportation, to nationalize vital economic sectors such as water, electricity and fuel, and to secure fair basic income for the popular segments by shoveling for the benefit of the poor, the oppressed, and the hungry, as much as possible of the surplus value and the enormous profits that capitalists and their monopolistic companies have accumulated and still accumulating.
Translated by: Carol Khoury