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Dr Louise Magris

Head of Sustainability and Foresight, Government of Jersey

2020 reminded us that we are merely passengers on planet Earth, not the driver.

Revelling in the outdoors and the elements, I’m a grateful beneficiary of the fact that humans have won the evolutionary lottery. Living in a western society, cocooned from the worst of the weather and climate, benefitting from on-tap medical care and the protection of scientific advances, I mostly avoid nature’s challenge of surviving or thriving.

Nearly all other species tread this same knife edge line, but their daily struggle is made all the more tenuous by the impact of human activity on the planet - something that has always deeply troubled and fuelled me to advocate for change leading to a career in conservation and environmental protection.

Pre-pandemic in 2019 and early 2020 I was buoyed by the call for urgent action to address climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Momentum gained as ‘climate emergencies’ were declared and it felt like a sea change bringing hope that we might redress our relationship with nature to secure a different future.

But, as we grappled locally with this vast challenge, events overtook us. Far away, the disruption of food chains and natural spaces forced an unnatural collision between animals, the environment and human populations. This silently created the conditions for a new coronavirus to evolve and jump species, this time infecting us.

We watched in horror, as a new virus rapidly spread untempered by our medical safety nets. The irony being that the connected global society we had enjoyed was now our Achilles heel. Attempting to slow the pandemic, we isolated ourselves from one another, the antithesis of our highly developed social structures - until now, the very behaviour upon which human society has built its success.

Playing a small part in the unfolding crisis, I worked within Jersey’s Government in a Herculean effort to maintain a lockdown, move through a ‘safe exit’ and find to a new normal whilst we await a vaccine. I was privileged and proud to work with dedicated people who tirelessly battled with the impacts of this ongoing and unprecedented crisis that is taking its toll on our health, mental wellbeing and the economy.

Despite the hubris and achievements of the human race, 2020 harshly reminds me that we’re a small cog in a vast and connected ecosystem. Our impacts on the climate and natural systems are sadly not without tragic consequences.