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Marcus Watson of Ground Control Explains That The Acute Coronavirus Crisis Is Bad, But Asks Whether It Is Dwarfed By The Environmental Crisis Which Continues To Loom?

Marcus Watson of Ground Control Explains That The Acute Coronavirus Crisis Is Bad, But Asks Whether It Is Dwarfed By The Environmental Crisis Which Continues To Loom?

Article by Marcus Watson, Managing Director, Ground Control
Published in Pro-Landscaper, July 2020

The 2008 financial crisis was bad, with the world economy shrinking by about 3%. We thought Brexit would be bad, reducing the relative growth rate we could otherwise have expected (the UK would still be growing, just not as fast as other countries). Then the coronavirus comes along to show us what disruption really looks like – the worst health crisis in 100 years coupled with an economic crisis the acuteness of which we have not seen for 300 years. The Bank of England warns us that the economy will shrink by 30% in the first half of the year and 14% over the course of 2020.1.  Broadly, this is five times worse than the financial crisis. But, whilst this recession will be deep, we are told the economy may recover relatively quickly with economic outputs returning to pre-coronavirus levels within two to three years (depending on the availability of effective vaccines, etc).

Now imagine something so much more damaging than coronavirus. More damaging to human health and wellbeing. More damaging to the health of the global and national economies that support our livelihoods, hospitals, schools and social safety nets. More damaging not only in its depth but also in its duration, because “going back to normal” and turning back the clock is so much harder than overcoming the coronavirus impact. It was not that long ago that we all spoke about it, especially in our sectors. Friday 27 March 2020 was an important day for all those communities living with the fear of flooding – it was the first day in 50 days that the flood risk was showing as green ‘low risk’ across England and Wales. On 15 February 2020, Storm Dennis gave us no fewer than 400 flood warnings. This was happening at a time when Australia was burning.

The 2019 to 2020 bushfire season was the worst on record and was branded the ‘Black Summer’. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years since records began in 1880. Amongst all the hurt and damage caused by coronavirus, something really quite extraordinary happened. Humanity managed to stop the clock somewhat. With our cities cleared of traffic, the air we breathe became cleaner. CO2 emissions reduced to levels equivalent to everyone in the UK switching to electric cars.

We must rebuild better; a greener, more sustainable economy that cares for our environment, allowing us to live fun, prosperous, fulfilling lives without mortgaging our children’s futures. We must rebuild better where parks and amenity spaces receive the attention and investment they deserve to better support people’s health and wellbeing.

In our industry, we are privileged. Because we work with landscapes, we know the value of our environment and outside spaces. Not only do we have a direct ability to rebuild better, we are well-placed to lead by example and influence others. We can encourage our colleagues, customers, family, and friends to select energy providers that only use renewable sources.

We can switch to electric vehicles and battery-powered equipment. We can opt not to fly regularly. We can choose pensions funds that support solid, environmentally sustainable businesses. Every day, we have the opportunity to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and make the right investment choices, whether as businesses or individuals. As we ease lockdown, we must avoid lurching from the coronavirus crisis into a deeper climate crisis.2  The good news is, it’s possible.

1 “Coronavirus: UK faces ‘worst recession for 300 years’ as grim economic impact of Covid-19 emerges”, Nigel Morris, The i, 7 May 2020
2 “Coronavirus: UK warned to avoid climate change crisis”, Roger Harrabin, BBC News, 6 May 2020,


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