Post corona will not be the same as before — not even in Sweden
We are now in a situation where we never had been before. The changes we are seeing in the society due to the corona pandemic, we have never seen before. In a few weeks we have going thru changes that the world has not seen since the world wars.
Most of the changes is about a changing our behaviour. And it is going fast. Normally we are saying that behavioural changes take a long time, and sometimes even not is possible. But now when we must change, big changes in behaviour have been coming very fast.
The “social distancing” that we have been requested is actually a physical distancing. This has meant a radical decrease in travel, even in Sweden where we do not have a full lockdown. The length of traveling per day have decreased from 53 km to 27 km, according to studies with the app TravelVu. This does not include air travel where the increase is even more drastic.
We have in other words been forced to dramatic behavioural changes when it comes to travel. This also means that new habits are created. Our everyday travel is to a big extent controlled by our habits. But what will this mean in the future?
In the US there is a debate ongoing that dense cities are a problem for the infectivity. But it is not that easy. Richard Florida has in an article said that it is not density in and of itself that seems to make cities susceptible, but the kind of density and the way it impacts daily work and living. Cities can be dense and although have places for people to isolate and be socially distant etc. He notice that there is a huge difference between rich dense places, where people can shelter in place, work remotely, and have all of their food and other needs delivered to them, and poor dense places, which push people out onto the streets, into stores and onto crowded transit with one another. The same differences can also be seen in big cities in Sweden.
Many of us has also seen the pictures of cities that normally have huge amount of air pollution, but now have clean and clear air. When the number of cars has decreased drastic, and large parts of the industry is closed, the emissions of nitrogen dioxide and particles decrease. According to ESA, European Space Agency, the emissions of nitrogen dioxide have decreased up to 40%.
In China, the emissions decreased so drastically, due to fresh air, that the decreasing deaths are many times higher than the number of the deaths in covid-19. Research also shows that even short time improvements in air quality can give positive effects on heart attacks, stroke etc.
New data from the finnish research centre for energy and clean air, CREA, shows that in Europe the number of premature deaths due to emissions decreased with. The decresing emissions also led to 600 less cases of asthma by children. Analyses also shows that the emissions of nitrogen oxide decreased by 37%.
And the 20:th of April, the American oil prices fell below zero, when all storage facilities were full because consumption had fallen drastically. And this means that shale oil and oil sands will certainly not be profitable. Finally.
But says some people — when the corona crisis is over, everything will go back to normal. And certainly, travel will increase to levels above normal, as many have an unmet need to travel.
However, more and more people seem to have a completely different view, which I also share and believe in.
In addition to the fact that we will have a long and deep recession, society will change in other ways. Globalization stops, countries look after their own house. World trade is falling drastically, and we need to become more self-sufficient. Global supply chains will become less common. We want the capacity to be able to handle large parts of them ourselves. Unfortunately, there is also a risk that nationalism will increase, and with that xenophobia. The plague is always someone else’s fault — maybe Chinese restaurants may close.
So, we will not go back to what it looked like before corona. The crisis is a major change in our behavior. And the crisis has been going on, and will last, for so long that a lot of these new behaviors become habits. But not only our habits change, but also a lot of how we view different phenomena.
Many will find that it is actually much smarter to run digital meetings instead of flying back and forth to another city. No one will be able to take a low-cost flight to Bali to go to yoga class. On the one hand, several of the companies will go bankrupt, and on the other hand, habits have changed and so the discussion about the climate will become more intense.
Using the roads as warehouses, and thus not having any local warehouses, will not be relevant. And we will see emergency stockpile being expanded and filled to breaking point.
Digitalization will get a real boost going forward. Will schools and universities be able to fully go back to what it looked like before the crisis? More people will also work from home and the systems for this will develop strongly.
E-commerce will expand significantly. We are becoming more and more accustomed to this way of making our purchases. And then it is very important that we work to solve logistics in a sustainable way.
And the question is whether the individualism we have lived with for so long will not be pitted against our common society. My ski holiday against the life and health of the collective. Studies show that we are becoming more and more helpful to each other, shopping for elderly people who are not allowed to go out, etc.
And the corona epidemic will be what makes us realise that, in the same way, we need to tackle the even bigger crisis — climate change. And for many countries, there will be immediate demands that not only CO2 emissions must be drastically reduced, but also other pollutants, where we now have seen how emission reductions can provide fresh air in the world’s major cities as well.
And one of the most important things of all: the measures now being implemented to keep businesses and society going, must all be carried out in a way that goes in a sustainable direction. Then we can also take advantage of what we have learned from the corona crisis when dealing with climate and sustainability issues.
But we must also not forget that, in the case of developing countries, the UN warns that famine could double in the world because of the corona crisis. It is really worrying.
Life post corona will not be the same. For better or for worse.
(New figures for decreasing deaths due to less emissions added 1:st of May)