COVID-19 pandemic gives us a glimpse of what is yet to come should we dismiss the effects climate change will have on us and the environment.
The current crisis concerning COVID-19 shows unequivocally that leadership is vital in the fight against climate change. The countries whose leaders have taken charge and made sure to base their decisions on the facts have had fewer traumatizing effects such as deaths from COVID-19.
These adverse effects point out that leadership and how it is approached may mitigate or exacerbate climate change. What then is leadership? The answer is broken at three distinct levels; the individual, the community, and the country levels.
I. At the individual level, leadership means taking charge of one’s actions and making the utmost decisions that benefit oneself. Thus, leadership is reflexive, where the individual takes into account how their actions affect themselves and those around them. By being reflexive, personal responsibility and self-awareness are positive attributes simultaneously expressed in this effort.
II. At the community level, leadership means participation. At this level, issues need to be brought up for community members to get actively involved in the deliberation of matters. This participatory deliberations fosters togetherness, increases the chances of satisfaction and coexistence amongst community members. Participation reduces violence and promotes neighbourliness. It also helps to keep the goals of the community in the very minds of the residents.
III. At the country level, leadership means humanism. At this level, to be a leader is to see fellow citizens as persons with human dignity. Such a form of leadership at the country level helps problematise issues of equality, violence, economic and job security as social problems that need addressing. Humanistic leadership, therefore, encapsulates what governments were created for, that is, alleviating the suffering of its people.
One can see from these definitions that leadership has different layers. Washing hands can be categorized as leadership taking place at the individual level. Observing social distancing can be leadership expressed at the community level while the provision of ventilators and health care facilities can be categorized as leadership at the country level.
However, the leadership seen during this pandemic leaves us with parallel experiences from which we can learn from to better the fight against climate change.
Foremost, we need to understand that timing matters. Nations with fewer cases of COVID-19 prove that timing or when to act was very critical to their success. Governments whose leadership had held off acting immediately on the crises have had increased numbers of COVID-19 cases—therefore signaling that in dealing with climate change, time is our greatest asset.
Furthermore, science and facts do matter. Those nations whose leaders ignored science, facts, and expert advice were hit hard with vast numbers of COVID-19 cases. A parallel line can be drawn from those situations and climate change. With the effects of climate change hovering over our heads, it is imperative that we listen to scientists and the facts they provide on this issue to make informed decisions. Our refusal to heed to the scientific community’s warning may have irreversible damage to this planet and biodiversity.
We see with COVID-19, individual initiatives such as social distancing, self-isolating, and hand washing are little activities people can adopt to prevent the spread of the virus. It implies that personal responsibilities too can go in a long way to help with climate change. Little things like using energy-efficient cars, commuting less by air, using less plastic, and recycling can be effective ways of contributing to a drop in greenhouse emissions.
This is important because what is done at the micro-level helps at the community level only if collectively, others are willingly doing the same, which in turn affects global warming at the macro-level.
In light of all this, the most critical quality that leaders must aspire to during a crisis would be truthfulness. Leadership that employs truthfulness as the central tenants of its interactions with its followership will garner more support from followers during times of crisis. Because truth defines their relationship, there wouldn’t be an inkling of distrust among citizenries and their leaders. However, if truthfulness is non-existent before a crisis, no citizenry would believe during a crisis, that the solutions envisaged are in their best interest.
Distrust is how conspiracies get to be fostered and spread even in light of good intentions. Thus, in an effort to tackle climate change, the truth must be the weapon of a leader. Leaders who continually downplayed the effects of COVID to their citizens have had devastating COVID cases. Yet this need not be the case on the subject of climate change. We need to learn our lessons from COVID-19 and do better for the future of the planet.