Olivia Yates is a researcher at Auckland University and Generation Zero member who I spoke to recently for a story on climate change.
It was the tail-end of the Australian bush fires. We talked about NZ's hazy sky and how devastation across the ditch was another grim reality of a crisis the world was not taking seriously.
Yate's point for New Zealand: "Individual action is great, but we know for effective reduction of emissions, structural change must be implemented at a policy level."
Three months later and we are in another global crisis. As with efforts to mitigate climate change, jurisdictions around the world have initiated their own responses to Covid-19. Here, government directives are targeted at ensuring our health system can cope with the level of care outbreaks will require. In the past week, on-the-ground impacts have included job losses, changes in work behaviour and, in Auckland, noticeably less traffic on the road.
With a vaccine one to two years away, it is the start of a long-haul effort.
Health director general Dr Ashley Bloomfield outlined the timeframe his team is working around last week. "The challenge here ... is you need to think about what ... we might need to do in two weeks' time, and we do it now."
His comment sat alongside multiple Government announcements, including approval of Air New Zealand's $900 million loan and our four-level alert system. It echoed in my brain as Italy confirmed its number of coronavirus-related deaths surpassed those in China, and London and California went into lockdown.
The imminent threat of Covid-19 has propelled NZ's authorities and other governments into action. For some, the response was too slow - highlighted by the World Health Organisation when it announced the pandemic and referenced "alarming levels of inaction".
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For climate change scientists and advocates, WHO's assessment of the Covid-19 response is all too familiar. Gernot Wagner, an associate professor of climate economics at New York University, made a direct comparison between the crises when he said Covid-19 was "climate change at warp speed".
"What takes decades and centuries for the climate takes days or weeks for a contagious disease," he said.
It is a bold statement that underpins a major obstacle in addressing the climate crisis, especially in New Zealand. As costly as events like prolonged drought and one-in-100-year storms are, they are far less confronting than the tangible risks we are considering with Covid-19.
Where does that then leave us with the climate crisis?
The answer is in how our lifestyles will continue to change, and the leadership responsible for that. Notably, reports of clearer air and water quality have emerged around the world as side-effects of public health measures. It seems Covid-19 has been good for climate change.
That is not to discount the impact of the pandemic for industries like aviation and tourism. At home, even with confirmation of its loan last week, Air NZ warned redundancies for 30 per cent of staff was possible. Matamata's Hobbiton also closed. The tourist attraction is expected to keep less than 10 per cent of its 266 staff during the shutdown. They are among rolling job losses and business closures expected as a result of Covid-19.
For the climate crisis, the forced dismantling of these industries presents an opportunity to target economic regeneration into serious zero-carbon measures. Importantly, it also provides insight into what happens when we fail to appropriately respond to crises.
So far, Jacinda Ardern and her government have managed to control the spread of Covid-19 and avoid wide-scale outbreaks. It is a precarious state of affairs, which has bypassed other countries that are now regretting inaction.
Compared to Covid-19, climate change may seem like a slow-burner, however the irreversible and avoidable devastation that has resulted in countries like Italy and China is a characteristic shared by both crises.
As we steel ourselves for the next few years, it is essential the decisiveness exhibited by our current leaders be transplanted to the climate crisis. The escalation of public health measures in the past week shows how swiftly top-level directives filter through industries, the public sector and into our daily lives. Change, driven by policy makers, enables important lifestyle adjustments.
The Government must take a similar approach to reducing emissions nationally.
• Teuila Fuatai is a freelance journalist specialising in social and cultural issues