Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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'COVID-2050': A threat to take seriously

Photos by Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Defense Board

Maria Montello, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Cambodia, reflects on the current response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a potential response to environmental destruction.

I was having dinner with a friend in her mid-70s and she was remembering significant global events she has lived through, e.g., wars, assassinations, cultural revolutions. She said, “…but I have never in my life seen anything like the global upheaval caused by the coronavirus.”

That got me to thinking: Imagine what actions might result if we, the citizens of the earth, took as seriously imminent destruction to the environment as we’re taking this COVID-19 pandemic.

What if…

…people decided to have remote business meetings and conferences not because of possible virus transmission but because every time a plane leaves the tarmac, massive amounts of dangerous carbon is put into the air? And, what if we decided to work from home because of emissions caused by our driving habits not out of worry of being breathed on by an infected colleague?

…shelves were empty not because of panic buying but because we had contaminated our water and our food and forgotten how to grow it?

…our medicines, gadgets and the comforts of life became inaccessible not because workers in the Global South were incapacitated but because the environmental damage felt disproportionally by people in those areas affected their ability to meet our desire for stuff?

entire cities were locked down or were threatened to be not because of government quarantines and possible mass infection but because of rising sea waters and possible washouts of entire cities caused by us?

…the concern felt for leaders in politics, business persons, entertainment giants and sports stars who give us feelings of stability and hope were felt for the animals and plants threatened by our destructive actions which indeed give us stability and hope?

What if our response to environmental destruction was on the same scale as COVID-19?

Surely, our personal actions would be different; our policies would be intact and more aggressive; our global collaboration would be amplified.

What if we took tomorrow’s “COVID-2050” as seriously as we’re taking today’s COVID-2019?

Photos: Centers for Disease Control | Environmental Defense Board