In this tragic time, suffering for the COVID-19 emergency adds up to the concerns about social stability and the future of the economy. The lessons of the recent financial crisis are invoked, new and old economic recipes are debated, and many scholars and commentators are saying that “nothing will be as before”. Understandably, anyone who runs a large company, a small business or works as an employee is looking forward to returning to the world “before”, and fears the world “after” as it is full of unknowns. It is therefore understandable to see a huge pressure from business to use all the available economic resources to go back to the world “before” as soon as possible. Although we remember the recent past as comfortable and safe, the world was already on an unsustainable trajectory in many respects. On an economic level, the enormity of the inequalities and the excessive power of finance over the real economy and governments; on a social level, the growth of nationalism, racism and individualism; from an environmental standpoint, the climate crisis, the loss of biodiversity and the widespread pollution. It is clear that if the world “after” follows the same trajectories as the world “before”, none of these problems will be solved. Between the “before” and the “after”, however, there is the “during”, the time we are currently living in and in which we will make choices that will extend their influence for decades. It is very difficult to think clearly about the future when the house is on fire, yet someone has to do it, especially if the fire will keep burning for many months, as in this case. It is clear that without an immediate mobilization of people, ideas and projects there will be no change of trajectory and the drive to return to a world “before” with the same flaws will prevail, indeed it is likely that some of the negative processes will be accelerated. As an expert in environmental issues, my main concern is that the huge amounts of money that will be poured into the economy will be the final blow to the hope of mitigating the most dramatic effects of the climate crisis and bring entire ecosystems to collapse, thus laying the foundations for the future suffering of millions of people, including our children and grandchildren. The appeals of economists such as Mariana Mazzucato of the University College of London and Enrico Giovannini of the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASVIS) or of representatives of civil society organizations such as Roberto Rossini of the ACLI must be followed by the action of those with political and economic power as well as those with knowledge. It is necessary to quickly create a context for discussion that goes beyond the current social and political divides, in which those who have the drive and the tools to reverse the course can openly discuss ideas and proposals for change and evaluate them for their ability to create sustainable well-being and not only short-term economic gains, largely for the same who already benefited the most. We cannot once again pass on our problems to the citizens of tomorrow. The young people who marched the streets of the planet in millions for climate justice, rightly, will not accept it. In this frame I think that the duty of professionals in the environmental consulting profession should be mobilizing in their communities and in their professional organizations to make sure the voice of their experience is heard. We are facing a once in a lifetime challenge and opportunity to change the world for the good. Lets not waste it.
Turin, March 29, 2020