Ever since COVID-19 first broke out of Wuhan, life has changed for the inhabitants of Planet Earth.
Here in the West, the rapacious rate of consumption has shrunk to a bread crumb nibble, as families hunker down at home and normal relations are reduced to instant messaging.
Despite these ‘social distancing’ measures, the UK has a death toll of 12,868 – a rise of 761 in the last 24 hours. At times like this, we would do well to remind ourselves that this nation provides its citizens with a well-developed (if not always well-resourced) system of health care that’s free at the point-of-access. People in other parts of the globe are not so lucky.
With so much at stake, it seems appropriate to look for the positives – and there is much good that can come from this period of forced incarceration. For one thing, a collective breather grants us a chance to take stock of where we are as a society. Do we carry on blindly stumbling towards greater inequality and ecological meltdown or do we take this once-in-a-generation opportunity to accept that we can’t have it all? The news from climate scientists should make the direction of travel very clear.
Since the outbreak began, humanity’s environmental footprint has shrunk to the relative size of a bootee. Roads that are usually choked with chugging combustion engines are clear. China, Italy, the UK and Germany are enjoying a 40 percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions, with all the attendant health benefits it brings to their citizens. Our skies are clearer too; air-traffic was down 50 percent by the middle of last month.
It seems clear that the post-COVID-19 world has some very serious decisions to make. We have seen, through the good works of people battling to keep this dreadful disease at bay, that human beings are heir to something greater than the relentless pursuit of money or power. Our nurses, cleaners, social care workers, charity workers – indeed anyone with a frontline role in this struggle – have shown us what the collective will of the human spirit can achieve when harnessed to a great cause. We are fortunate that this country is rich in this crucial resource, but now we have to show enough wisdom to embrace a future that’s less about the myth of infinite growth and more about living within our means.
Road Less Travelled
Whether we are able to take the road less travelled depends on two things: one, a willingness to accept that ‘everything now’ has consequences and, two: a commitment to demanding better from our policymakers. And we shouldn’t be suckered into thinking that this is an impossible dream when the events of the past two months have demonstrated that anything is possible where love and hope survive. Sure there will be challenges, as President Trump’s ill-advised decision to cut The World Health Organisation’s funding shows. But Trumpim is as transient as an April shower and there will be life beyond such naked self-interest.
So let’s come together as a nation, put our shoulders to the wheel and show the courage, fortitude compassion and ingenuity that has characterised the story of these islands for a thousand years.
Future generations are depending us.
The Workers Union – Britain’s hardest working union