Protesting during corona - why is it crucial for social activism to continue?

When the corona lockdown ended one of the first things I did was getting back to the streets to protest. For me, this was a natural thing to do, but I felt like the world around me kept demanding an explanation - why was I so selfish going out in the open, often to places fairly crowded, for a sake of a protest? Did I not care about the elderly? Why did I want to put more lives at risk?

I was stunned by these questions. And there were more. You live in Europe, why should you put lives at risk here by showing solidarity to the events in the USA? The climate can wait for us to fix this crisis, corona matters more than the environment right now.

What I found staggering about these statements was the way in which they ignored the interconnection between the coronavirus and the thing we were protesting for. Corona as a zootonic disease is in fact, connected to the ecological collapse. More diseases like this are on the way if we continue exploiting nature the way that we are currently doing. If we let the planet keep warming, more and more people will also be exposed to diseases like Malaria, as the mosquitoes carrying the disease will be able to migrate further. Separating corona from the environmental and BLM movement also completely ignores the struggle of those who are already, if not dying, at least severely suffering.

What do I mean by this?

Saying that we shouldn’t protest for BLM during corona is a privileged statement to the core. Saying that we shouldn’t “sacrifice more lives” calls for nothing more but the protection of people in power. People are already dying. As much as the corona is a health crisis is also a crisis of social inequality. It is the POC that are taking the hardest hit. It is the people who are, at the cost of their health and potentially even their lives, on the streets protesting because this matters more than “endangering more people”. These people know the risks and they’re still there, because their lives are in danger with or without corona. And because of all this, saying that we shouldn’t endanger more lives you mean that we shouldn’t endanger the lives of the white – those whose lives do not depend on this very movement.

But what about the environmental movement? People have protested against climate change for decades, surely they can take off a month or two? Why do you have to be on the streets at this very moment to demand change?

It would be easy to start by saying that every day takes us closer to the tipping point – or potentially beyond that if it’s already been reached – and therefore it was crucial for the very existence of humanity to take action immediately. But we know that people in power don’t really care about science that much and they do not like to invest in the future as much as they like to boost the economy of their countries. Saying that there’s no time to lose, as true as it is, has unfortunately lost it’s power and people no longer take it seriously. I therefore offer few alternative approaches to the topic here, one from the humanitarian point and another on why the post-lockdown period might be the most crucial moment of them all to demand change.

As we speak, people are dying. They’re dying because of the coronavirus, but they’re also already dying because of conflicts, starvation, and extreme weather conditions - all caused by climate change. The climate wars are already here. There are already places that suffer from famine because of the unpredictable changing climates. People died in the Australian bushfires earlier this year. The floods in Indonesia this January killed over 60 people and displaced tens of thousands. The destinies of these people are not only in the hands of the 1% but also in the hands of the countries that are not taking appropriate steps to tackle the climate crisis. The carbon footprint of our economies and ways of living are boosting the impacts of climatic changes and killing people on the other side of the world.

These things should always matter, but the reason why they matter particularly much right now is that countries across the world are coming up with COVID-19 recovery plans. Governments are desperate to lift to the economy after the pandemic and if the recovery plan in your country looks anything like the one from mine, you'll see that the recovery plan does not talk anything about the transition to the circular economy or green energy. It's a plan that comes at the cost of the environment, our futures, and the present of those who are already suffering from climate-driven changes.

What I'm trying to say here is that the people you see protesting on the streets are not protesting against the threats of the future. They are protesting real-life threats that are happening right now, both for them and people around the world. Social activism has to continue during corona because the coronavirus is inherently interlinked with social and environmental justice.

Nothing will change if people won't stand up and demand a better future.

You Might Also Like