The pounding and discomposed mobilization of politicians and media against the coronavirus reminds of Peter and the Wolf: what could we ever do to communicate a real emergency, when the climate crisis at the gates will begin to have a serious impact on our lives (as it is already doing on those of millions of other human beings), now that everyone sees that the wolf is not there, or is not a wolf?

What we see at present is just a race to extreme measures so as not to feel overtaken by those who demand that “more” is to be done: it is the mechanism of a political competition that has lost the measure of the true or presumed “common good”. You want to close the harbours? Well, I’m closing the airports. You want to close the mosques? And I am closing churches. That’s how you do stupid things like keeping the bars open for breakfast and close them at tea time. Doctors are told to shut up, Roberto Burioni[1] isn’t.

Many however see in these measures a test or a stage of approach to the State of Exception, as Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls it, in order to control systematically all our daily activities. It’s true: the measures against the coronavirus affect mainly places and moments of aggregation: shows; bars and pubs; meetings, gatherings and events; offices for those who can do teleworking from home. These are conditions that are favourable for the affirmation of an authoritarian dominion. This half size quarantine, which does not touch factory work, nor queues at supermarkets or crowds in stations and on public transport, is in line with the basic trends of the process: systematic closure of all centres of aggregation – where women, young people, asylum seekers and activists meet – and, above all, laws against migrants and social struggles, aimed at transforming Europe into a fortress closed to the outside, but also into a well-disciplined security state inside, where dissent and conflict are outlawed.

This is how the right (in tune, though denied, with the centre and left-wing establishments, whether they are aware of it or not) is preparing to face by force of arms the consequences of the climate crisis: mass migrations in and from the rest of the world, and struggles against the disruption of living and working conditions and of the territories within each country. Continuing to squeeze gas and oil from the belly of the Earth pumping CO2 into the air.

But let us not to limit ourselves to an obvious denunciation, and try to turn this tragicomedy into an opportunity for growth and self-training for all. Because, in the final analysis, the measures imposed, although partly ridiculous and partly excessive, break the ordinary course of our lives, making us understand that from one moment to the next we can really enter into “emergency”; a condition that, for those who have declared it or demanded it to be declared against the climate and environmental crisis, should be normal, an awareness that from now on nothing can flow as before. A condition in which many have already been thrown into by the precariousness of work or life and many others by some extreme event that has driven them out of their homes, but which for everyone should mean “getting used to doing without their habits”.

The climate and environmental crisis will upset all of them. From now on, and whether you like it or not, things will change for the worse: the weather will no longer be predictable, and sometimes not even bearable; work may be missing because the markets that supported it will disappear; shops and supermarkets will not always be full and we will have to give up many things; we may find ourselves without a car or without gasoline, or with trains that are seven hours late; the light may no longer come on every day, water may no longer run off the tap for hours, houses may remain cold, holidays may fade because planes no longer depart and illnesses from unknown viruses may multiply. And all these things will have to be remedied together with those who suffer with us. But above all we must anticipate them, identifying, taking and imposing new paths, because if we wait for those who govern us to do so, those who continue to think only of building high-speed rail links, pipelines, Olympics games and giant stadiums, while “our house burns”, we will end up burned with it.

It is an illusion to think that life will continue as before, and to claim that it is sufficient to make the growth of the GDP “sustainable”. Let’s forget about GDP and look at things: there hasn’t been any true development for a long time, neither for us nor for the rest of the world, except for an increasingly small handful of Lords of the Earth (and of finance) who hold our destinies in their hands. There will be no ecological conversion, neither of the system nor of our lives, unless we first realize that, as Naomi Klein puts it, “this changes everything: nothing will ever be the same again.”

Translation from Italian by Thomas Schmid

[1] Burioni is an Italian virologist claiming that the danger of the coronavirus has been underestimated.