Commentary. The environmental activist Vandana Shiva highlights the overlapping of three crises: economic, food and health. On the occasion of May 1, his exhortation lays the foundations for solidarity and democratic coexistence everywhere in the world.

May Day and the three pandemics

We are witnessing three pandemics happening simultaneously. The first is the coronavirus pandemic. The second is the pandemic of hunger. The third is the pandemic of the loss of livelihoods. The coronavirus has infected 3.19 million people so far and killed 228,000 worldwide.

The World Food Programme has warned the international community about the looming “hunger pandemic,” which has the potential to affect a quarter of a billion people whose lives and livelihoods will be at immediate risk.

According to the World Food Programme, more than one million people are at risk of malnutrition and 300,000 of them could starve to death on any given day in the next three months.

There is also a “pandemic” of the loss of livelihoods. According to the ILO, “as a result of the economic crisis created by the pandemic, almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living. This is due to lockdown measures and/or because they work in the hardest-hit sectors.”

As pointed out by Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, “for millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. […] As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.”

All these three pandemics are rooted in an economic model based on profit, greed and extractivism, which has accelerated ecological destruction, exacerbated the loss of livelihoods, increased economic inequalities and polarized and divided society between the 1% and the 99%.

On this May 1, in the times of the coronavirus crisis, let us imagine and create new economies based on a Democracy of the Earth and economic democracy, which would protect the planet and humanity. Let us tackle all three crises through democratic participation and solidarity. Through compassion, let us ensure that no one suffers hunger, and through solidarity and democracy, let us participate in the shaping of future economies to ensure that no one is without work, that no one is without a voice.

The multiple crises that we are facing are a wake-up call: the economy as managed by the 1% is not working for people and for nature. The 1% are classing 99% of the world’s population as “disposable.” Their idea of the future is based on digital agriculture without farmers, automated factories and production without workers.

We have an obligation to create economies that don’t destroy nature and that don’t destroy the livelihoods and rights of the workers, economies that don’t destroy our health by spreading disease and pandemics, that don’t cause the loss of livelihoods, freedom, dignity and the right to work, that don’t exacerbate the problem of hunger in the world.

Let us create “zero hunger” economies by protecting the livelihoods of small farmers who provide us with 80% of the food we consume. Let us create circular and local solidarity economies that would support street vendors and small retailers, who give shape to communities while reducing their ecological footprint.

In the coming post-COVID-19 phase, let us regenerate the economy with the awareness that all lives are equal, that we are part of the Earth, that we are ecological, biological beings, that work is our right and is at the center of human life. Let us also remember that caring for the Earth and for each other is the most important work there is. No people are disposable or useless. We are one humanity on one planet. Autonomy, integrity, dignity, work, freedom and democracy are our birthright.

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