Much has already been written about the Corona virus. ‘And the last thing I want to do is to howl with the wolves in the forest’. That is so easy and happens far too often when watching the media every day. It is good to see that there are many positive news facts, and that people are trying to come up with creative solutions, within the preconditions set by the government. It is clear that difficult times have yet to come, but with a positive mindset, we must be able to work collectively on this.
We often assume that health is a given until something goes wrong. This “thinking in denial” applies both on a personal level and now also on a global scale. A former colleague of mine sent a very interesting link, in which Bill Gates warned about real outbreaks of global viruses in 2015, so 5 years ago; Click here for more details. If you listen well to his speech and let his words sink in, various questions arise.
Do we never learn from past incidents? As an ultramodern society, are we unable to pick up signals at an early stage through smart KPIs? Why is our collective memory often so short? Look at the advices of the Club of Rome in 1972. I can still remember the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003, and all the precautionary measures, but what have we learned from this?
I imagine that questions will be asked to WHO and related organisations that we have set up to inform us in time about the outbreak of disease and its prevention. We are now clearly in a “firefighting mode” (and fortunately we are good at that in the Netherlands), but what can we do preventively to limit these kinds of situations on this mega-scale?
In another area, but it also concerned a global crisis, I sometimes reflect on the period 2008-2009 when the financial crisis started with all its consequences. Have we really learned from this crisis? And sufficiently implemented new responsible business models and preconditions? I’m personally happy with the leadership shown by the Dutch Government. Of course you can always make critical comments about what they do and say. “The best helmsmen are always ashore”. But the Government takes action and communicates.
So let’s learn from this tragic global health crisis that costs many lives, has made many people sick, and all the follow-up health issues that will come because people, young and old, feel limited in their freedom, with all its consequences.
This crisis once again shows how “small” our world has become; on the one hand because of how easy it is to get on a plane and be on the other side of the world within 12 hours. And the ease with which we import and export business with all the associated risks. Apart from the fact that via internet and TV we now see exactly how it is ‘in the world’. That quickly brings everything into your own living room. But is everything brought objectively and neutral?
This Coronavirus crisis has parallels with the climate problem. After all, CO2 and fine dust issues are not limited to one country either. Greenhouse gas emissions anywhere in the world affect us all. So if we really want to reduce CO2 emissions, we need to collaborate much more internationally. CO2 simply “blows” across national borders. Of course we take action in our own country. However, these actions only have real effect if everyone also takes (international) action.
What worries me are the messages I have been reading lately: “no time for sustainability or anything else for now; first solve the Coronavirus problem”. Of course, the focus should be on our health and protecting humanity. But that focus also applies to fighting poverty, effectively addressing climate change issues, properly addressing the financial concerns of many people around the world, and making our society and living environment truly safe.
The media now reports daily the numbers of people who have died in a country as a result of the Corona virus. It is good to know as it keeps us on our toes to eliminate the virus as soon as possible. However, from now on let’s also publish more often the numbers of people worldwide who have died as a result of air pollution and other unwanted causes. I realise that death due to air pollution has followed a different timeline than the much shorter Corona virus agony. But still: we need to be much more aware of the less immediately visible consequences of our daily actions.
Let’s talk to each other about our collective involvement in bringing our society to a higher level. If not for ourselves, then for our children and grandchildren. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to improve our wellbeing; only together can we do this. Hopefully this time we will learn the right lessons from everything we have recently experienced. I will continue to do my best in my humble way and hope to make a good contribution.
Thijs Aarten, involved in social and sustainability initiatives.