THERE they were, in the glooming rain, standing tall among the ducked heads of shoppers scooting past, of office workers darting for a quick sandwich, of folk racing for trains.

The climate strikers, a little gaggle, on the steps of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

The climate strikers. I had entirely forgotten about them. Greta Thunberg’s visit to Bristol was three weeks ago today, tens of thousands of people cramming the streets to hear this teenager tell young people that they are the "adults in the room" when it comes to tackling the climate emergency.

That day's climate strike closed local schools. Now schools are to close across the country and the world as we know it has been dramatically altered.

We have been hammered with reminders about hand washing and social distancing. I find myself saying "social distancing" repeatedly and naturally in conversation as if this has always been part of my lexicon and yet two weeks ago I had never heard the phrase.

While I'm ducking across the street to avoid people and have washed my hands red raw, others are more cavalier.

The pub near my flat was hoaching the other night; people are sitting next to strangers on the bus rather than spacing themselves out; and the teller in the bank sneezed freely and unabashedly all over the cash he was about to hand me.

I feel a cloudy sense of foreboding rather than any sparking anxiety yet others seem blasé about it all.

Or are they blasé? Maybe rather they are struggling to respond because everything feels abstract and it is hard to be motivated by abstraction.

This was stark during the Australian bushfires. An area the size of England burned. So many of us have friends and relatives in Australia or have visited the country. It is easy to make an emotional connection to the trauma of people losing their homes or living with imminent danger when we know them, we recognise them, when we can look at them and feel that they are like us.

But Australia is half a world away. Even the deaths - at least 33 people and half a billion animals - felt too far away to make overseas observers start to fret about their habits. We watched from afar as people sat trapped on beaches, choking on florid orange air, and thought how awful it all looked, before taking another unnecessary flight or driving our cars a walkable distance.

The bushfires, though, were not a far away abstraction. They have burned in Europe too. In 2018 Sweden saw the worst bushfires in its history. Here, 2018 and 2019 were the worst two years on record for wildfires on moors in Scotland and the north west of England. Three square miles of land was destroyed at Marsden Moor in Yorkshire last year.

These are frightening developments. Yet still largely abstract. Three square miles of wildfire, even, can be extinguished and, for city dwellers in London or Glasgow or Aberdeen, what do they really matter?

The climate crisis is increasing the intensity of wildfires and making them occur more often. The effects, as well as damage to property and threat to life, are air pollution.

So far 9953 people have died from coronavirus. The tally will have risen before we go to print and again before this paper appears on news stands. Air pollution causes at least eight million early deaths each year, dirty air damaging hearts and lungs. That's Scotland gone, Wales too. The equivalent of both countries lying empty.

Confinement measures in China have led to falls in air pollution as fewer vehicles are on the roads. Estimates are that thousands of premature deaths from air pollution have been avoided thanks to the cleaner air and lower emissions.

Already the environmental changes caused by lockdown in Italy are visible. The canals of Venice are now running so clear that shoals of fish can be seen in the water, the lack of traffic quickly reducing the air pollution and cleaning the water.

The tourists have gone, causing an economic problem, but the environment is cleaner.

With the coronavirus crisis deepening, we are experiencing now what it is like to live with imminent threat. It's an odd sensation, not something my generation is used to. To mitigate the feeling of apprehension, communities are banding together. Politicians and, yesterday, the monarch are praising the great British spirit. "Our nation’s history," the Queen said, "Has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal."

I wonder if, years from now, we will look back at a golden age of collective spirit. Will it be a wistful misremembering or will we really all draw together to care for one another?

While that remains to be seen, there is a parallel between how we respond to the environmental crisis and how we respond to the climate crisis at an individual level.

Like Greta Thunberg, young people seem to be more alert to the danger. Parents and teachers report hearing children express fear about climate change and concern that they will die before their time because of the impact our actions are having on the environment.

Psychologists are now looking at ways to tackle climate anxiety in climate scientists and researchers as well as in young people.

At the other end of the scale we have climate apathy, a refusal to take the issue seriously because, day to day, the impact of climate change is not easy to see. People are reluctant to make changes that inconvenience them.

And people have been reluctant to make difficult changes as coronavirus has crossed borders and come ever closer.

What, it remains to be seen, will motive us to make real changes? Will it be seeing the effects of climate change right on our doorsteps? Will it be rising death rates from coronavirus?

We don't have the excuse any more that problems are too far away to make a cognitive leap. They are right here, right now, and we must act.