A week ago I was feeling fairly blasé about coronavirus. We were laughing at the stupidity of people panic buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Since then, I’ve been realizing the scale and seriousness of this pandemic. I’ve been devouring information from the World Health Organisation, discovering why we should approach the pandemic with a systems-thinking lens and curiously analyzing interactive maps showing confirmed cases throughout the world. I’ve been hearing from friends and family around the world — friends in lock down in Spain, another teaching students online from home accompanied by a two year old in Switzerland, one who lives in Italy currently stranded in Berlin and family who are disappointingly reconsidering Easter travel plans.
We are living in chaotic and uncertain times — advice and government measures are continually evolving as leaders devise strategies for how to best to curb the disease’s spread and treat those affected. Through the sea of surgical masks and vigorous hand washing, this crisis is illustrating that governments can and will act urgently to prevent risks to people’s health and well being, despite the widespread economic effects of doing so. We are starting to appreciate our interconnectedness as global citizens — actions in one place can have far reaching consequences in other places; and that we as humans can all be similarly affected by such crises, no matter our ethnicity, gender, language or religion.
As scary as this pandemic is, our global society will overcome this. We have beaten pandemics before and we will do so again, despite likely sending many to early graves before it is over. Over the next few months, aside from raising our hygiene standards (which is undoubtedly important), I hope that we all will have learnt something more profound from this crisis. Perhaps we will learn:
- that we are not immune to things happening ‘out there’ (in other cities, other countries or ‘the environment’)
- that we can work together across borders, cultures and countries to solve complex problems
- that many of our earthly aspirations to accumulate wealth or amass certain material possessions are somewhat useless if we don’t have good health, clean water and air, access to fresh, good quality food and safe and welcoming communities
- to consider community needs alongside our own
- to look after those more vulnerable members of society
More and more of us will be told not to come to work, to school, to church, to gatherings. While this could be a potentially isolating time for many, it may also be an opportunity to slow down, to reflect, to eat local food, to support local businesses, to holiday closer to home, to make do with what we have.
Over the next few months, there will be panic and fear. There will be sadness and frustration. But also, it is my hope that we emerge from this situation as a global society that is stronger, wiser, more compassionate and more conscious of our impacts upon the lives of others. I hope that we will have increased ability to cooperate with each other and increased recognition of the things that truly matter in life — healthy and happy people living on a similarly healthy planet. If we are able to learn from this deeply troubling and stressful experience, coronavirus could be the catalyst to build a strong foundation for solving long term complex problems (lest I mention climate change, poverty and social injustice) that I dare say, will still remain in the future.