Africa: Opinion - As Crises Converge, It's Time to Plant Seeds for a Different Future

Now is the time to engage those left out of important conversations and build a more just, compassionate and climate-smart post-pandemic world

In the book The Overstory, Richard Powers wrote, "Trees fall with spectacular crashes. Planting is silent, and growth invisible."

Earlier this year, as green spaces offered quiet comfort amidst the multiple crises colliding, a generous friend sent me some of the seeds she had saved from her own vegetable growing efforts. I've been tending to the seeds - watching over the moisture levels, moving the seed trays outdoors for welcome sunshine, then back indoors before further frosty weather - and a metaphor began to emerge.

Planting may well be silent, but it isn't without effort, and as long as we commit to it with care, it can be a powerful statement of the future we imagine.

We stand at the threshold of an immense opportunity with long lasting consequences for our collective future: the multiple crises triggered by the global pandemic have been experienced most devastatingly by those who already carry an unfair share of the burden related to the climate crisis.

As a recent meme put it, we're all facing the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. Yes, some communities did draw closer, and many individuals rediscovered - or reasserted - their agency over personal and hyperlocal decisions.

But the systemic problems that led to the public health crisis, and the subsequent economic crisis, only worsened divisions along the lines of race, gender, class and other markers of identity and privilege.

In some parts of the world, we finally seem close to turning a corner on the pandemic, with vaccination efforts gaining momentum and suggesting a return to 'normalcy' is within reach. But we are still far away from the healing and repair needed, and an even longer way from a truly equitable and just recovery.

As societies turn their attention towards recovery and rebuilding, we all have the responsibility of ensuring that these efforts are rooted in real justice. There can be no quick fix for the deep-rooted systemic problems that show up as structural inequalities, but there has literally never been a time like the present to make a start.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to center restorative practice, intentionally engage those historically left out of important conversations, and collaborate to build a more just and compassionate post-pandemic world.

Starting, perhaps, with a more equitable approach to the vaccine itself: rather than monopolies controlled by capitalism and greed, a People's Vaccine, available for all, from the North to the South, without further delay, as a global common good.

Over the last year, we have seen how swiftly practices and policies that were once held immoveable could be reviewed, revised, or rejected outright. From family gatherings to formal education, healthcare consultations to presidential elections, the pandemic forced adaptations upon us in previously unthinkable ways.

Decision makers at all levels of private and public enterprise all across the world showed an ability to adapt to new models for education, healthcare, business, governance and more. Choices are being made right now that will shape our society for decades to come.

It is this opportunity we want to seize, this openness we are keen to embrace, as we as 350.org host the Global Just Recovery Gathering April 9-11, a chance for the climate movement to re-connect and continue the many conversations being hosted in communities, hearing from the many visionaries already leading the way.

We call for a united global response to the pandemic that ensures a Just Recovery. We are asking for a transition to a better future for those most in need, founded on these five principles:

  • Put people's health first, no exceptions.
  • Provide economic relief directly to the people.
  • Help our workers and communities, not corporate executives.
  • Create resilience for future crises.
  • Build solidarity and community across borders - do not empower authoritarians.

This is our chance to reimagine the future we want - one that will protect lives and lands, correct the unequal emphasis on economy over ecology, and put people before profit.

Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Namrata Chowdhary is chief of public engagement at 350.org

More From: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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