As lockdown eases, ‘better future is possible’

Togetherness: The pandemic has proven that, in times of crisis, we can transform our society. © Shutterstock

Could life after lockdown be better than before? Many thinkers are saying the world has a chance to reinvent itself. Health, the environment, and inequality can become political priorities.

“The sky really IS a deeper shade of blue,” read one headline yesterday.

For some, that image is more than a literal description. It serves as a metaphor too. “When a storm subsides, the air is washed clean,” wrote Rebecca Solnit. “And you can often see farther and more sharply than at any other time.”

In recent days, many have pointed out that our present world would be difficult to explain to a time traveler from just a few months ago.

We have discovered that some of those least well paid by society – nurses, care home assistants, supermarket workers, delivery drivers – are crucial to our survival.

Almost every government has enforced lockdowns and frozen business, putting human life before wealth.

Climate sceptics who argued that cutting emissions was impossible have been shown that it really can happen.

Airplanes are grounded; trains are empty. Goats wander in children’s playgrounds. As the meme suggests: “Nature is healing”.

To some observers, it is a kinder, more sustainable world than we are used to. Could such changes be here to stay?

Quite possibly, many think.

For economist Simon Mair, we now have the space “to build a more humane system”.

The UK climate secretary has said, “The world must work together [...] to support a green and resilient recovery, which leaves no one behind.”

French President Emmanuel Macron agrees. He believes that because of the Covid-19 outbreak, issues like pollution will become urgent: “people will no longer accept breathing dirty air”.

From an economic perspective, the aftermath of the crisis could spell a turning point for globalisation.

For example, it may be harder to justify producing a country’s medical supplies on the other side of the planet.

But others have called on increased global cooperation to overcome indiscriminate planetary threats, such as pandemics and the negative effects of global warming.

And as the Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra writes: “It has taken a disaster for the state to assume its original responsibility to protect citizens.”

So, could life after lockdown actually be better than before?

New dawn?

No. According to Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, we can expect further disaster where those in power do their best to profit off the initial pandemic. After previous crises, societies have often become harsher as demand for basic resources increases. Indeed, the economic shock following these unprecedented months could cause hardships for millions across the world for years to come.

Then again, many are already working towards building that kinder, more sustainable future. One where key workers feel adequately rewarded, where healthcare is central to society, and where the planet is something that we cherish instead of exploiting. Indeed, it is up to all of us to push for that vision. As the writer Peter Baker points out: “We’re not watching a movie: we’re writing one, together, until the end.”

You Decide

  1. What do you think needs to happen to ensure that, in the future, we really will have a better world?
  2. Do you think that people should be ambitious in the aftermath of a crisis or just aim to get back to normal?

Activities

  1. Make a list of all the things you have preferred about the world since lockdown. Think up ways to ensure that we can still enjoy these in the future.
  2. Write a letter addressed to you in exactly 10 years’ time, laying out your hopes for a meaningful post-pandemic world. Write two sides. Give it to an adult, with strict instructions to return it to you on 27 April 2030.

Some People Say...

“There are decades where nothing happens – and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Lenin (1870-1924), Russian revolutionary, political theorist, and founder of the Soviet Union

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that we cannot really look to history for guidance here – as French President Emmanuel Macron has said, “It’s a profound anthropological shock. We have stopped half the planet to save lives, there are no precedents for that in our history.” The economic and social effects are without equal in peacetime. It is safe to assume, therefore, that this is a historical turning point. Life will be different.
What do we not know?
There are no guarantees that life will be better. As political adviser Richard Fontaine put it: “When every country suddenly fights for itself, the idea of international interdependence appears worth rethinking.” We do not know if confronting the climate crisis will be as straightforward – the sense of emergency is never as high as when individuals are actually fearing for their lives.

Word Watch

Subsides
Becomes less intense, violent, or severe.
Wealth
Usually measured as GDP (gross domestic product), which is a measure of the health and success of a particular country based on the amount of money that is made by its citizens in a specific time period.
Humane
Showing compassion or benevolence. The word is often used in opposition to a decision that seems cruel.
Globalisation
The process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide. Globalisation is used to explain the similarity in culture between major cities around the world, such as why McDonalds are everywhere, and how everyone knows Adidas
Indiscriminate
Done randomly or without careful judgement.
Shock Doctrine
After the book of the same name. The shock doctrine or ‘disaster capitalism’ refers to the idea that those in power engineer and exploit crises to push through harsh policies while most people are distracted.

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