Newsletter Editorial – A lack of urgency – Dave McCoid

6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 11, 2020

Our reaction to Covid-19 is often compared with our response to climate change. Environment lobbyists complain we‘re not responding with the same urgency to global warming as we are to the pandemic. There are a few choice reasons for that. First, being one of the planet‘s great thermal-regulators, mammals can live happily whether it‘s hot or cold. For most of us, being warm feels quite nice. Being human though, we don‘t really give a toss that many of our interstellar cohorts on the Good Ship Earth (some of whom we‘re dependent upon) don‘t fare as well either side of their temperature sweet spot. But, for now, that‘s their problem. 

Obviously, there‘s scepticism too. Both ‘C‘s suffered from that in different ways. With Covid-19, it was more about origins rather than whether it killed; whereas, with warming, there‘s still a loud meh-it‘s-all-crap lobby. Again, only time will pick the winner. 

Last is urgency. Covid-19 presented a clear and present danger to well-being. Being the masters of our universe we are nowadays, we didn‘t have to take a Spanish flu-like arse-kicking, looking on hopelessly as the pathogen went about its cull. No, we are in a position to take it on and show it who‘s boss. The winners of the vaccine race are likely to enjoy laurels on Wall St, and while the tail end of the search certainly had commercial undertones, it certainly kicked off with a global call to arms of sorts to all and sundry on the front lines of microbe management. 

Because the climate thing is a chronic creeper, rather than an all-out attack, our approach is far more confused, poorly strategised, paralysed by opinion, and intoxicated by the subterfuge that drives commercial gain. If we had tried to solve Covid-19 in the same way as we‘re approaching global warming, we‘d have made a whole new race of people who didn‘t get the disease, only to find they‘ll die of something else down the track. If we went about trying to solve climate in the same way we took on Covid-19, we‘d cease all commercial lunacy, moral make-up, corporate KPIs, and put the world‘s best brains on working out how to manage atmospheric CO2 less destructively than we are now. We‘ve had plenty of time to take such an approach, we just didn‘t have the urgency early on, or the maturity at any stage. Currently, we‘re steaming headlong towards what in many ways is a replacement for the failed, which is equally as tragic. 

Take battery mania. The sign said, ‘We didn‘t inherit the land from our parents, we‘ve borrowed it from our children.‘ Yet, the spent lithium-ion battery mountain in China alone will reach 500,000 tonnes in 2020. By 2030, the annual global figure will reach 2 million tonnes, according to chemical and engineering journal, C&EN. So kids, just so you understand, the bulk of those batteries are currently going to landfill: we borrowed that piece of land to put our batteries in. That‘s what the sign said, didn‘t it?

“Why are you doing that?” they may ask. Well, the batteries are difficult to recycle and – you guessed it – the ‘returns‘ aren‘t there. Justifying that last bullet point to the children will be interesting, that‘s for sure. Maybe the sign should have read, ‘Here we go again‘. 

I‘m yet to be convinced that the contribution pure battery solutions make to environmental liberation is anything more than the equivalent of diet soda‘s contribution to global health stats. And, as we drive the EV to the fracking protest – or worse, the mall to buy Christmas lights – let‘s not discuss the humanitarian issues involved in the extraction of the vital elements required in building those batteries.

Maybe hydrogen needs some work, investment, and time (not that we have much of that left)? Surely starting with the most abundant element in the universe, getting water out the end, and needing a much smaller battery in the middle is an excellent place to from which to kick off? Currently, what we have in all areas of combatting global warming is commercial and political lobbying on runaway trains scrapping over the share price for salvation and whose light will shine the brightest in the new reformation. 

One sign is truer than true: ‘We are all in this together‘. 

All the best

Dave McCoid