Faced with this global crisis, it is normal for us to feel disoriented. Everything has been evolving so rapidly that the reality of the present moment may not even apply to the new circumstances that appear tomorrow or even tonight.
The strangeness of working at home, of canceling trips and events, of spending much more time alone or with our families, and of having hours of video conferencing each day in an attempt to maintain some professional normalcy. These and many other daily routines have arrived most abruptly in all our lives. The disturbing silence of the city, with the closed stores and deserted streets remind us of the science fiction films that have so quickly became part of our reality.
Here in Brazil, things have already appeared accelerated for a long time. Since the election campaign in 2018, many of us have been aware of news and fake news. At any moment, everything could change: a new tweet from the president; a new decision by the Judiciary; the movement of the Congress; a headline with an investigative report by a journalist; the announcement of INPE or GDP data; the mobilization of protest campaigns by the indigenous peoples or Marielle Franco; the international reaction to what happens in the Brazil of today. Each one of these facts and the news brings us hope and/or dismay.
However, the reality of the Coronavirus has superseded all other news. Rapidly, the headlines about the speed with which the virus has been spreading has suddenly exposed the irrelevance of the political polarization that we have experienced so intensely in recent years. The Coronavirus has blatantly laid bare the gap of the economic, social and racial inequalities of our society. Above all, it has uncovered the ignorance and total lack of responsibility and preparation of some of our politicians in the highest positions.
It is also important to recognize that this terrible pandemic has shown us how much we are interdependent on each other and the importance of international collaboration. It demonstrates how much the harmony of our ecosystem needs to be preserved and our relationship with nature rethought. It displays how the common good has to be respected, solidarity valued and that our personal attitudes can make a significant difference.
COVID-19 has shown us the importance of respecting and valuing science and of having a capable and effective public management to deal with crises. And that prevention and behavioral change are the best remedies to deal with global crises. Crises that unfortunately could become part of a “new normal” if we do not effectively and lastingly change.
I have read reports about how the Coronavirus has reduced the carbon footprint in the world and, unfortunately, some of these articles are celebrating this fact. I would like make the position of the Institute for Climate and Society very clear: we have nothing to celebrate! The pandemic is, above all, a human tragedy. What we need now are emergency measures to contain the virus and to help people in crisis.
There is no doubt that climate change is an enormous global risk and can in fact lead to several human tragedies. However, this is a foreseeable studied risk, which is public knowledge and, therefore, can and should be avoided.
Although it is difficult to process and deal with everything that is happening, we know that most of our network of partners are privileged, and that there are many, many people in very poor conditions and much worse than ours. Many are facing real difficulties: the frontline health professionals, the thousands of residents of communities without infrastructure, the informal workers and the unemployed, the elderly, the people with chronic illnesses and many other vulnerable groups.
Beyond what each individual can and should do to protect themselves, protect their families and protect the most vulnerable, it is fundamental that philanthropic organizations (like ours), independent of their strict mandates, seek to help the institutions and groups in the most vulnerable communities effectively at this time. International philanthropy is already heading in this direction and we must ensure that this movement is reinforced here in Brazil.
Finally, I would like to reassure our partners regarding with respect to deadlines and possible revisions of their projects or budgets. If you need to make any modifications in the already existing projects, please contact the Portfolio Coordinator who is responsible for your project so that together we can deal with the consequences of the current situation. If you have been discussing a new partnership, please rest assured that we will do our best to process new grants as soon as possible.
The most important thing at this time is for each one of you and your families to keep well and calm.
Ana Toni – executive director of iCS