As parts of the world begin to lift quarantine, whether officially or otherwise, a group of more than 200 high-profile artists, scientists, and thought leaders have signed a call to arms published in Le Monde last week asking citizens and leaders to take measured action to avoid ecological disaster.
Titled “No to a Return to Normal,” the letter is penned by actor Juliette Binoche with French physicist and philosopher Aurélien Barrau, and its many signatories include Robert De Niro, Cate Blanchett, Joaquin Phoenix, Alfonso Cuarón, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Rooney Mara, Marion Cotillard, Adam Driver, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Paolo Sorrentino, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Pedro Almodóvar, Guillaume Canet, Penelope Cruz, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Nathalie Baye, Monica Bellucci, and Willem Dafoe.
The letter asks that society reconsider its value systems and look beyond consumerism before hastily returning to normal life, which would mean risking further global collapse in the form of a possible second wave. The silver lining of this situation, the letter proposes, is that COVID-19 has invited us to slow down and pull back on the rise-and-grind mentality that has forced us “to deny the value of life itself.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy. This crisis is, however, inviting us to examine what is essential. And what we see is simple: “adjustments” are not enough. The problem is systemic.
The ongoing ecological catastrophe is a meta-crisis: the massive extinction of life on Earth is no longer in doubt, and all indicators point to a direct existential threat. Unlike a pandemic, however severe, a global ecological collapse will have immeasurable consequences.
We therefore solemnly call upon leaders — and all of us as citizens – to leave behind the unsustainable logic that still prevails and to undertake a profound overhaul of our goals, values, and economies.
The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself: that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings. Pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our remaining natural zones has brought the world to a breaking point.
For these reasons, along with increasing social inequalities, we believe it is unthinkable to “go back to normal.”
The radical transformation we need – at all levels – demands boldness and courage. It will not happen without a massive and determined commitment. We must act now. It is as much a matter of survival as one of dignity and coherence.