Michael Pascoe: From COVID to carbon, the world has simply given up

Not only have we given up trying
to prevent climate catastrophe, we've stopped caring about  COVID deaths.

Not only have we given up trying to prevent climate catastrophe, we've stopped caring about COVID deaths. Photo: TND/Getty

In case you missed it, the momentous decision that didn’t make
headlines at the COP27 meeting this month is that we’ve given up trying
to prevent climate catastrophe.

The headline that did emerge – richer nations promising to send some
disaster compensation pennies to poorer nations – was a fig leaf for the

The 1.5°C thing is over. The fast-approaching main game isn’t about how many more points of a degree we’ll warm – it’s tipping points in the systems that sustain us.

And the Albanese Government was in that failure up to its we’re-a-little
bit-better-than-the-other-mob’s neck. It’s too hard. We don’t really care – we like the gas and coal money.

Too hard

Not dissimilarly, we’ve given up on preventing the spread of, and deaths
from, COVID-19.
It became too hard to wear masks; we don’t care about the people dying or suffering morbidity issues from the virus.

The people still on the frontline nearly three years later, the people we
were loudly hailing as heroes in 2020, they haven’t given up. They’re still
sweating in PPE, still getting sick as they tend the sick.

But we’ve stopped caring about them, too.

Hospitalisations are surging again as the latest wave has its way with us, the seven-day rolling average up to 2242 in the week to November 22 and rising. The seven-day ICU average jumped by 43 per cent in the
week to 75.

The nurses and orderlies and doctors having to deal with it, frustratingly
begging for help to lower the numbers, we’ve stopped listening to them.
Like aged care, health care is something we want other people to do for
us while we avoid responsibility for the unpleasant stuff. And we’d prefer
them not to remind us. We don’t hear them when they try.
Climate Covid

Source: Department of Health

Moved on

How many people are dying from COVID? Google it, if you want to know
– but you probably don’t. If we see a number somewhere low on the news agenda it barely registers.

Of course,  COVID isn’t the only disease we have such an attitude
towards. It’s just the newest one, though it’s ageing fast from a news
interest point of view.

Sure, it’s our third-biggest killer, but we’ve accepted that as part of the
furniture. We’ve moved on as we have with other challenges.

We have a diabetes plague that doesn’t concern us much, doesn’t
concern us enough to take on Big Sugar or sort out the conflicting claims about the drug industry vs low carbohydrate diet treatment.

Gambling rampant

Similarly, the disease of problem gambling that kills people, damages
people and families, ruins lives – nah, let it rip, encourage it to grow. We
don’t care.
Like Big Carbon’s tax revenue and donations, politicians like gambling’s
money – and fear the power of those they’ve been bought by.

Jonica Newby’s book, Beyond Climate Change, explores the idea of
Chernobyl Man, the nuclear power plant supervisor who refused to
believe it was melting down, could not believe it. He kept sending people
to their deaths through that non-belief.

We’ve been through that stage. We’ve had politicians and most of our
newspapers and Big Carbon refusing to believe we have a climate
change crisis.

Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce and Murdoch’s myrmidons and
similar “useful idiots” were our Chernobyl Men and Women.

We’re out the other side of that phase. We’re no longer denying it. We
simply don’t care enough to generate the energy required to fight it as
best we can.

Ms Newby’s book explores the emotional stages of climate grief. She does not finish it in despair, despite the bleak future of our coral reefs and our snow fields.

She finds people of courage in the climate front line, fighting to save
what can be saved, fighting our insouciance, dealing with despair.

There are people of similar quality fighting COVID and other diseases,
struggling in understaffed aged car facilities, battling the housing crisis,
trying to find solutions against the odds for people in the most need,
working through one disaster or another, picking up society’s broken

We still have our heroes.

But, well, you know, that’s nice, but … our actions say we don’t care.
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