Forecasters see a new world after the pandemic

Pristine planet: “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Winston Churchill.

After Covid-19, will the world be reborn as a better place? Though the crisis is taking a terrible toll, some predict it will bring about far-reaching changes that will benefit humanity.

Covid-19 could change people’s lives for the better. Yesterday, we conducted a review of the experts – scientists, sociologists, and professional forecasters. Here is a summary of their conclusions.

Everyday life may benefit from the sense of community the pandemic has created. People have learnt to look out for others – particularly the elderly – and realised how rewarding it is. And they have rediscovered the joy of shared activities, like cooking.

The environment might benefit too. In some cities, daily emissions from cars are 60% down on last year. People can see how much better life is with less pollution. They may now feel that they can get by with fewer journeys – for work and pleasure – and live with fewer things made in the factories that cause so much pollution.

Politically and economically, there could be a shift towards valuing and rewarding those who do vital work, such as doctors and teachers, more than those who simply make a profit. Globalisation could be reversed, as countries wake up to the importance of being able to make goods to supply themselves. This would lead to a revival of local manufacturing, and force China to be less intransigent as its exports fell.

After Covid-19, will the world be reborn as a better place?

Hatching a future

Yes, say the majority of experts. We have had a chance to think more deeply, and rediscovered the importance of caring for others: John Donne wrote his famous line, “No man is an island”, while recovering from fever.

But a few disagree. For them, the crisis has given politicians an excuse to introduce authoritarian measures, such as increasing surveillance and postponing elections. And we have already seen a rise in nationalist xenophobia, with distrust of foreigners growing swiftly, and domestic abuse.

You Decide

  1. What is the best thing that has come out of the pandemic for you?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you are a medieval peasant asking the lord of the manor for a pay rise after the Black Death. Write a two-page diary entry about the experience.

Some People Say...

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”

Sydney J Harris (1917-1986), American journalist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The pandemic has resulted in governments playing a bigger part in people’s lives. Some aspects of this, such as lockdowns enforced by the police, may be seen as infringements of civil liberties. Others, such as paying a large proportion of employees’ wages, could pave the way for a more compassionate society, and more care given to the vulnerable by the government.
What do we not know?
Whether the crisis will result in temporary or permanent changes. At present, people and organisations are being generous: for example, volunteering to help health workers, and theatres are making plays available online for free – but this attitude may not last when businesses have to make up for the money they are now losing. On the other hand, major political shifts could occur, like the creation of the NHS after World War II. Governments that do not handle the crisis well are likely to be voted out.

Word Watch

Globalisation
The expansion of trade across the world, with large companies operating in many different countries.
Intransigent
Uncompromising; unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something.
John Donne
An English writer (1572-1631) famous for his poems about love and religion.
Authoritarian
Demanding strict obedience.
Xenophobia
A strong dislike of foreigners. The term comes from the Greek words “xenos” (a foreigner or stranger) and “phobos” (fear).

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