The Corona pandemics changes everything
2019 will go down as the year that marks the beginning of the 21st century. Just as the First World War in 1914 marked the historic beginning of the 20th century, the Corona pandemic marks a new era. The current crisis reveals the weaknesses of our society. It suddenly manifests existing problems and its consequences will confront us with further challenges. This makes it all the more important to look beyond the crisis and consider what this world of the 21st century should look like — in other words, what we want to do so that we can live in it as well as can be.
Two important issues of the decade are climate change and our response to it on the one hand, and the digital revolution on the other. In the Corona crisis, the two come together spectacularly.
The pandemic makes it abundantly clear that the mechanisms that govern our global community are above all suited to the unlimited exploitation of natural resources that everyone needs and to the privatisation of the profits from this exploitation. These resources include air, water and land, but also empathy, knowledge and experience.
The climate crisis is the defining mega-crisis of our time, and to believe that those who benefit from it will solve it would be absurd. Greta Thunberg has started a worldwide movement out of nothing, a pandemic of resistance.
In her speeches Greta Thunberg speaks without beating about the bush and strives for science and moral decency, for example at the World Economic Forum in Davos:
“ Either we choose to go on as a civilization, or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.”
With her particular perception, Greta sees the climate crisis in a light that makes the vast majority of us sick — and she is there to make it clear to everyone: something has to change, now.
And then she says something in an interview in Rolling Stone that applies equally to the Corona crisis:
“I’m very weak in a sense, I’m very tiny and I am very emotional, and that is not something people usually associate with strength. I think weakness, in a way, can be also needed because we don’t have to be the loudest, we don’t have to take up the most amount of space, and we don’t have to earn the most money. We don’t need to have the biggest car, and we don’t need to get the most attention. We need to care about each other more.”
In Die Zeit, sociologist Ernst Bude also talks about solidarity during the Corona crisis:
“Everyone shares a common sense of vulnerability. (…) At the very least, this results in a feeling of mutual concern and responsibility. This is something that will concern us in the long run.”
The corona pandemic will put an end to the principle of maximising economic benefits.
The people whose job it is to care for others are our only salvation. And the state will once again become visible in its role of ensuring security, health and justice.
In the 21st century, these functions can be achieved with the help of digital technologies. In the face of the pandemic, it seems urgent to focus not on profitability but on sustainability as the ultimate goal when it comes to digitally capturing, networking and understanding the planet and its inhabitants.
Through the work of initiatives such as the Eco Health Alliance, which uses Big Data to investigate the interactions between nature and mankind, it is becoming clear that our ecological footprint is helping to create pandemics.
Deforestation, for example, and the resulting shrinking habitats and expanding human settlements are forcing wild animals into ever closer contact with humans. This favours the transmission of diseases from animal to human, as happened with the coronavirus. Scientists have long warned that the combination of intensive livestock farming, loss of natural habitats and globalization significantly increases the risk of the emergence and rapid spread of epidemics.
The US investor Chamath Palihapitiya, founder of Social Capital, has made it his mission to address social challenges with the help of digital solutions in private initiatives. His topics include education, combating the climate crisis and health. His approach is typical for the US economy, except that his investments are very long-term.
Kara Swisher interviews him in her Recode Decode Podcast. As someone who understands the financial markets, Chamath Palihapitiya is watching the current crisis closely. He too sees the imperative of the hour in more “care and responsibility”, in his words summarized under “resilience”.
“Resilience” describes the ability of systems to withstand crises. Depending on the system, this involves flexibility, health, strength, but also adaptability and optimism. Every person is a system, but so is every city, every country and every company. The earth is the largest and most complex system we have here (apart from the universe).
Be it “ care”, responsibility or “resilience”: it is up to each of us, each company, each city, each country to shape the system in such a way that it maintains and nurtures its own foundations. The most important principle today must be to maximize safety and health _for everyone_. Therein lies a radical change.