What can we learn from the many comparisons being made between the simultaneous crises of COVID-19 and climate change? Are these part of the same sustainability crisis? The article “New Normal or Post Normal: Philosophical implications of the COVID-19 pandemic”, published in the Eubios Journal of Asian and international bioethics, gives us the opportunity to take a closer look at sustainability in the popular sense of the word.
Ask what the meaning of sustainability is, and you’ll receive a wide range of responses depending on who you ask and the context in which the question is raised. The term “sustainability” is often applied haphazardly and incorrectly, and even abused. The need to be clear about the extent to which something is sustainable has led to the development of all kinds of tools and concepts, such as best available techniques, life cycle analyses, classification systems such as the recent European taxonomy for sustainable investments and other assessment frameworks for environmental and climate solutions.
Time to redefine sustainability
The COVID-19 pandemic has offered time for introspection and the opportunity to redefine sustainability as respecting an ethical relationship towards sustainable development. We have to move from sustainability to “justainability” – a term referring to the concept of “just sustainability”, where the intersecting goals of social justice and environmental sustainability meet.
Whatever path is taken, it is desirable that natural ecosystems to which humans intrinsically belong, are given a more central place in the new meaning of sustainability. You could call it an ecocentric reorientation of the term. In this sense, sustainability becomes more inclusive and offers more respect for social-economic values as part of a realistic equilibrium with nature, with more attention paid to the mutual dependency of humans as an intrinsic kind in the total ecosphere.
The COVID-19 pandemic and Agenda 2030
On one hand, the pandemic has revealed weaknesses in current systems, such as inequality and injustice. More importantly, it has produced devastating and irrevocable consequences which contravene the principles of Agenda 2030, while exacerbating the inequality which will undoubtedly make these harder to achieve. On the other hand, the pandemic presents a unique opportunity to focus on the many relaunch resources with Agenda 2030 in mind.
Technological solutions to shape the post-pandemic world
We live in interesting times. The pandemic’s ongoing impact on the world economy means the road to a low-carbon sustainable economy is far from ideal. The question of how we will we emerge is twofold. Which path will we follow? And where will we end up?
In the past, we have seen that an ecosystem’s natural order can soon be restored once the contamination has stopped. Will we switch to a sustainable future by changing our approach to the natural order? Will we be sufficiently successful in softening the impact of the imminent climate challenge? To what extent will we adapt? Or will we return to a more malicious “situation” and yearn for 2020 as we reach 2030?
Many questions about how our post-pandemic world can be shaped, helped by sustainable technological solutions, were addressed during the 5th G-STIC Conference. Watch videos of the sessions.