Activism in the Age of COVID-19, All is Not Lost

Image: Miro Korenha

From the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to the presidential election, this year was supposed to be a monumental one for climate activism. Coming off 2019 in which we saw a wave of youth climate strikes, the COVID-19 pandemic has made mass public demonstrations temporarily impossible.

So does this mean 2020 will be a year of lost climate action? Not so says actress Jane Fonda whose Fire Drill Fridays have recently gone digital (Text Jane to 877877 for more info.) Though Fonda had planned to take a two-year hiatus from acting to tour the country and get out the climate vote, she’s still finding ways to draw attention to climate issues through digital platforms

Digital Activism: As Inside Climate News explained,Some chapters of the youth-based Sunrise Movement have abandoned plans for a strike, while beginning to organize online teach-ins to engage students who are stuck at home and eager for something to do, now that so many schools have been shut down by the coronavirus.

And from local climate groups to global coalitions, activists are moving their canvassing, signature gathering and get-out-the vote campaigns to the Internet.”

Risks and Rewards: As Grist wrote of the youth climate group, Fridays for Future, their path forward is unclear. “If the movement is denied street demonstrations for months, it may find its resources drying up and activists demoralized.”

And certainly, it is difficult getting the attention of lawmakers who are preoccupied with a highly contagious and deadly virus that’s threatening lives and the global economy. But opportunities do exist to spread the message.

  •  While major media outlets may not be writing about climate change, local papers are likely to do so. Writing letters to the editor, submitting op-eds and pitching story ideas are within everyone’s power.
  • Additionally, for non-influencers, most people are spending more time than ever on the phone and on video conferencing platforms with friends and family. It’s a perfect opportunity to engage with loved ones on climate issues. Talking about climate change is one of the most important things we can do. And if you are someone with a platform, this goes double for you.

Why This Matters: Coronavirus is very much an environmental and conservation issue yet we’re already seeing the ways that a global pandemic is hampering the coordinated global response to climate change. Though it’s difficult to get the public’s attention when they’re fearing for their lives and job security, it’s more necessary now that ever to talk about the need to protect our planet.

We’re seeing people turn to nature in record numbers as an escape during the lockdown and it’s crucial that the message of conservation and climate action reaches these voters. Without protection and action, national parks and abundant natural areas aren’t guaranteed for future generations. Spreading this awareness is difficult to accomplish when the media will give so little air time to the issue, but it underscores the need for influential people to leverage their platforms to spread the message.

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