March 2020 Newsletter

Be the Change recognizes that we are living in uncertain and exceptional times. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our community, our teachers, and our students. With staff working remotely and program offerings moving online, Be the Change is working to do its part to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve”. We encourage you all to continue following the recommendations of public health agencies and healthcare officials closely.

 

We know there is uncertainty around students continuing learning as we practice social distancing. In response, Be the Change is working hard to build a new Climate and Connection Unit with 15 Action Packs, so teachers will have more online resource options to teach at a distance. We hope to launch this in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Reply to us if you are an educator interested in piloting this new online program with us!

Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The present pandemic offers many lessons relevant to our work to empower youth in the fight against climate change and other environmental and social justice issues. 

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlights how interconnected we truly are and the importance of individual and collective action. The transmission and spread of the virus has taught us that the actions we take as individuals affect everyone in our communities. In Canada, it estimated that 44% of COVID-19 cases that are currently being acquired are through community spread, in which people could contract the virus while visiting friends or buying groceries. Although the fact that the virus is spread easily through communities is troubling, there is incredible power in individual and collective action in slowing down the spread of the virus. Our individual and collective behavioural measures are key to preventing the further spread of COVID-19. As the Near Real-Time Studies Look for Behavioural Measures Vital to Stopping Coronavirus article underscores, there is an increasing number of studies finding that many individuals will act in ways that go against their best interest for the greater good and for the collective. Everyone needs to work together to help each other. At the same time, imagine, if individuals in communities throughout the world are able to join forces and mobilize to address pressing environmental issues such as climate change. Imagine, what we as a society could accomplish and do for our planet. Just as all individuals in communities mobilize to participate in social distancing and self-isolation, to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can amplify and merge efforts to reduce carbon emission sources and climate change impacts. 

 

The COVID-19 has had a profound and unexpected impact on the climate and environment. Across the globe, the level of air pollution namely levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon equivalent emissions have drastically fallen, primarily due to limited use of public and private transportation and the halting of various industrial activities. These gains in helping the environment may be short-lived and are likely to falter, if we continue with business-as-usual after the pandemic. In fact, the recent economic downturn may translate to greater pressure on our finite resources, as investments into alternatives such as large-scale implementation of renewable energy resources and the implementation of sustainable production begin to dwindle, if not come to a complete halt. Many of these investments into alternatives depend on resilient political economies. As a result, in an uncertain and difficult time, it is important that we stay vigilant and continue to strive towards climate and environmental stewardship locally and nationally, championing climate action and environmental sustainability. It is not the time for society and environmentalists to welcome and rejoice the improvements in the environment during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Instead, communities should welcome and realize the power that we as collective humans have at changing the world we live in. This pandemic allows us as a society to re-evaluate our time on earth. What kind of world do you envision society living in and how do you believe we can achieve it? The response should not be a devastating pandemic crisis that impacts all families and communities.

It is important to acknowledge the weighted obstacles that vulnerable and marginalized groups confront during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it is not widely discussed, homeless people across the globe are finding themselves at the centre of the pandemic. How are the homeless to curb their exposure to the virus and aid in global community efforts to reduce the spread of the virus when many of the public health directives are unattainable for them? How can one self-isolate with no home, avoid crowded places when food lines and overdose prevention services are an essential part of daily survival, or regularly sanitize their hands with soap and water when public amenities are rapidly closing? In Canada, many of the homeless are being forced to take cover in crowded shelters, a breeding ground for the virus. Further, many of the essential services including meal programs, overdose prevention sites, and community health clinics that homeless and housing-insecure people rely on for subsistence are being shut down. In Vancouver, the situation is urgent. We must band together to ensure that we do not leave anybody behind during this exceptionally difficult time.

  • Learn more about how organizations such as Carnie Community Action Project and Covenant House are responding.
  • Listen to this podcast to learn more about how the pandemic intersects with another public health emergency: the opioid crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
  • Sign a petition like this one to call on public agencies and local governments to act.

Humanity has multiple emergencies on its hands, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change. At Be the Change, we’re committed to empowering youth to become leaders and changemakers in their local communities.