How Do We Recover from the Pandemic? Think Green!


Headlines are screaming that we are facing the worst economic crisis since World War II. I couldn’t agree more. Economies are frozen and people are locked up in their homes. Yet, economists say that we are in a historic moment to bring our ecological and economic successes together. How is that possible? 

Before the arrival of the virus, most countries largely neglected their environmental goals while pursuing urbanization. Any attempt at green healing involved “quick solutions.” But the pandemic showed us something unexpected.

Just two months into the lockdown, India’s Yamuna river cleansed itself with its own biological activity. (Successive governments had poured $6.5 billion over 25 years to clean the river and had failed abysmally!) Other benefits of the economic downturn saw wild deers wandering in Nara, while rare turtles came ashore on Thai beaches. As carbon emissions fell drastically, pictures of New Delhi’s blue skies went viral. 

Indeed, it has become evident that nature is capable of healing itself. But why did this not happen when people were going about their business? I think that societies tend to have a biased sense of development. They assume that only one goal can be achieved at a time: either a flourishing biosphere or a prosperous economy. Unfortunately, mankind does not hesitate to sacrifice the former. 

However, we can arrive at a win-win if we redefine our approach to the economy even though it’s practically dead right now. Frankly, I think 2020 is the perfect time to fix our financial model while simultaneously achieving a sustainable world. 

It is our duty – you and me – to envision a world where a golden economy means a thriving biosphere.”

How exactly can this happen? Green Stimulus Packages (GSPs) are considered to be game-changers if we aim for economic and ecological goals in a single shot. And this leads to what Joseph Stieglitz, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, calls The Green Recovery. It’s already in action at Fruglac, a UK-based packaging company, which has developed wine bottles from 95% recyclable ingredients. This innovation not only received a $2.4 million investment but also cut their carbon and water footprint by 80% and 70% respectively.

Furthermore, Ørsted, which was originally an oil and natural gas company, claims to be “the world’s most sustainable energy company.” Their wind power supply to over 13 million people helped reduce their emissions by about 85%. Such green energy projects have also generated twice as many jobs worldwide unlike fossil fuel industries. 

While Japan’s GDP ranks among the best, it has the world’s highest national debt and is considered one of the largest global carbon emitters. 

Despite the odds, a major international move by 96 countries to adopt a greener recovery during a virtual conference hosted by Japan’s Environmental Minister Shinjiro Koizumi has received much appreciation. Koizumi plans on investing Japan’s stimulus packages in clean hydrogen and carbon capture technologies.  “Japan is ready to lead international climate discussions once again,” Koizumi said on Climate Change News.   

Climate change is not a risk to the future. It’s here and it’s happening right now. But now is not the time for any blame game. We must begin the journey here in 2020, the year of absolute mayhem. Because every end, as the saying goes, is a new beginning.