The Pandemic and its Relation to Climate Change

The Pandemic and its Relation to Climate Change

Something a bit different today. I came across an excellent article in New York magazine entitled A Historian of Economic Crisis on the World After COVID-19. It was an interview with Adam Tooze, “a leading expert on how economic crises have remade the modern world.” He had some interesting thoughts about how the current pandemic is intertwined with the climate change movement:

[…] I started the year immersed in a book about political economy, energy, and climate. And then I found myself totally blindsided by this and was forced to pick over the ruins of my own thinking. And I realized, like, Oh shit, the emerging-diseases paradigm is itself the product of the 1970s and 1980s, when big climate science got going. In fact, the first big international climate conference in 1989 takes place in the same year as the big Rockefeller University meeting on the emerging-diseases paradigm, which frames the problem exactly as you’ve just done.

If you go back to the ’70s, it’s actually epidemiologists who are central in developing these core ideas of climate politics, such as the interrelationship between the local and the global, because pandemics are always local, and yet, by definition, global (hence, pan-).

So what in January 2020 seemed to me like distinct preoccupations — when you’re a “climate political economy” person, you spend your time thinking about capitalism and Exxon, not epidemiology and wet markets — these things were in fact profoundly related.

I love this way of thinking about history, as a system of interconnecting things. This is related to technology evolution too, as my recent posts about George Dyson’s books attest.

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