Make no mistake, anti-racist protests that swept across the globe from the US, the COVID-19 viral infection that spread across the earth from Wuhan creating an economic crisis and the worldwide ecological protest of the Extinction Rebellion are all connected.
The colour of wealth gives anti-racist protests, that vigorously violate social distancing measures, a boost as racial minorities are much more threatened by COVID-19. They cannot afford medical care or the furlough that followed shutdowns. But they are at the frontline without fear. Nearly 40% of black Americans live in counties at highest risk of health and economic disruption from the coronavirus crisis. Two hundred and forty-four high risk counties are home to 39% of all black Americans. In black neighbourhoods, 60% of a paycheck must be held on deposit to avoid a fee or account closure. In white communities, the limit is 28%.
Spike Lee said that the anti-racist protests are ‘a direct response to having a black president.’ Obama succeeded while fully respecting the rules of the liberal game. During the eight years of Obama, the group that has fared worse was not only the group most likely to support him, but also the most likely to find ‘Hope’ in the deteriorating situation in which they found themselves. Any discussion of this dilemma is a heresy. Ranks close, criticisms shunned and constructive critiques unwelcome. The question as to how Obama’s tenure impacted black communities should not be asked or, at the very least, should not be answered. The anti-racists protests today are a punishing blow to “Now you have a black president, what more do you want?” It is our task to interrogate this ‘more.’
BP expects that COVID-19 will accelerate the transition towards cleaner energy in keeping with the targets of the Paris Agreement. BP decided to shave $17.5bn off the value of its oil and gas assets to reflect a more faithful view of longer-term oil prices in the aftershock of the pandemic, which it expects to fast-track the shift away from fossil fuels. Shell announced a write-down of $2bn, following more than $10bn in impairment charges by Chevron. These measures are not unrealistic. They are honest depictions of reality.
COVID-19 remains part of a protracted unbalanced relationship with the earth. We are not out of the woods as yet. In Beijing, a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus linked seventy-nine cases to a sprawling complex of trading halls in Fengtai. The market supplies 80% of Beijing’s fruits and vegetables and reaches 21 million people across the city. Delays to bring the Beverage Container Bill from the twilight into the blare noon light of the Parliament is a blight. Greed is always greater for creatures of liminality than any concern for humanity. They pollute the earth with plastic without prejudice. COVID-19 is not just a medical problem to be unravelled by medical chiefs of staff and scientists at All Souls in Oxford. Manufacturers and ports like Amsterdam have a part to play.
The crucial ideological and political melée that has unfurled concerns the relationship among all three domains: the COVID-19 pandemic, the Extinction Crisis and anti-racist protests driven by structural inequality and racism. Recovery teams everywhere must insist on the rudimentary unity of all three. Downing Street is drowning in the debate over discrimination, statutes, and British history, after a fortnight of protests across England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finally announced a commission to examine racial inequality across British society including the criminal justice system and the education system. What is clear to the English is that no strategy or no project in a post-COVID-19 world can have sustained impact outside of a new ecology of British schooling. Schooling cannot be an apparatus of oppression. It must never take away agency and amplify unfreedoms. It must liberate. Education must be about liberty. No map in this moment can have a compass unless it is drawn upon a new ecology of schooling.
All three – viral epidemics, racial unrests and ecological emergencies have erupted as punctures within the dynamics of global capitalism. None are devils from the blue. They are troubles that have been seething for decades. The mantra of the mapmakers may be to get the economy moving. But what may be needed is a complete reset. Something so radical that it would actualize their project in the conditions of these three epidemics.
This triad of crises offers the opportunity to improve performance and efficiency everywhere. But before we begin rebuilding we must ask- What are we aspiring to be? What are our priority initiatives? Across which tasks and purposes can we find the richest potential for performance improvement and cost efficiencies? What are our targets? How do we move each activity through a well-defined stage-gate process? Which sectors require sandboxes for experimentation on the fringes of existing frameworks to identify barriers to development? And finally- How do we support widespread capability building to drive implementation from an empowered transformation office with cash control capability? Such an office must be staffed by talent-thick initiative-teams that execute with rigorous performance, transparency, and control.