TDuring her time last year, Victoria was enduring her long winter of Covid isolation. Other states were cautiously loosening restrictions. Most Australians clung to the assumption that the pandemic would end at some point. Vaccines would be developed, and once we had them, the threat would end. We just had to hold on until it was ready.
Now the idea of a neat endpoint is much less secure because mutated versions of the virus keep slipping through our defenses and shutting down our lives again, just when we dare to make even the most modest plans.
The “end” we once bet on is not only delayed by the federal government’s mismanagement of the task of securing vaccine supplies. If the variants keep turning up and outperform vaccines, the idea of a final conclusion to this trial could be a mirage. The UK’s arbitrary end point, the so-called “freedom day” when restrictions were lifted, came with the country still recording nearly 50,000 infections per day and with a warning from 1,200 scientists that the move could lead to the emergence of vaccine resistant strains. .
Due to Australia’s lagging vaccination rates, we have not yet faced decisions about the tradeoffs between freedom of movement and the inevitable ongoing outbreaks or the level of risk we are prepared to take. In time we will open up again, sure, but returning to a pre-pandemic idea of normalcy can be an illusion.
Going through another closed winter, Australia seems tired and irritable. The prime minister seeks to lay the blame. Prime ministers are under pressure, residents of states and suburbs are pointing fingers at each other and reporters try to turn press conferences into performative displays of aggression. The national determination, the common purpose of “all in this together”, remains, but hardly.
All around us, the pandemic is raging. Four million deaths, 50,000 cases a day in Indonesia, only 0.06% of the vaccinated population in PNG. All the social and political consequences have not yet been revealed.
At the same time, an even more terrifying subplot – the undeniable consequences of global warming – is unfolding just as scientists predicted.
Floods in Europe, fires in Canada, droughts in the US, our own black summer and floods of 2021; What we still call “once in a lifetime” events occur every two years. Scientists warn that the “tipping points,” the ecological moments of no return, are almost upon us. According to a leak, the next IPCC report says bluntly that global warming is going to reshape life on Earth.
But still, Australia’s ability to commit to greenhouse gas reductions even at the global minimum accepted for developed economies of net zero emissions by 2030 is based on the whim of a minor party that scored 4.5%. of the votes in the last federal elections and whose leader compares the commitment. to climate action with a lunch of sauteed pickles and sashimi tadpoles for reasons no one had the patience or will to figure out.
Rather than admit the threat that global warming poses to the Great Barrier Reef, the federal government embarks on snorkeling diplomacy to try to convince the world that the reef is not, in fact, in danger.
Like the pandemic, global warming is changing our lives so profoundly that things can never go back to what we once perceived as normal. Even if we manage to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the heating that’s already going on will cause a huge disruptive change.
And the democratic institutions that are supposed to help societies navigate these upheavals are themselves under enormous pressure.
Reporting on all of this is a challenge and an immense responsibility.
Readers need facts, information, and explanations, and we must understand that the impact of these forces of change is often profoundly uneven.
We also need to understand and reflect on fear, loss, pain, and uncertainty. More than ever, we need to listen and get involved.
But we cannot succumb to the toxicity of cynicism and hopelessness, which can also become reasons for doing nothing. Even now, especially now, we have to report ideas and solutions and the possibility of positive change. As editor-in-chief Katharine Viner wrote in an essay to mark The Guardian’s 200th anniversary in May: “Our mission is based on a moral conviction: that people yearn to understand the world they are in and create a better one. Use our clarity and imagination to generate hope. “
That purpose has guided us for the eight years since we established Guardian Australia, is guiding us as we expand and find millions more readers, and will continue to guide our reporting.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism