Just one month ago, my wife, millennial daughter, and I sat on a crowded Georgia beach. Now we are hunkered down in our respective homes, avoiding all non-essential social contact.
How quickly the world can turn upside down.
COVID-19 has driven home a message denied too long: the world is small, and each of us is literally our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Your decisions and actions today—and mine—ultimately impact the health of each and every person on this globe.
COVID-19 has also spotlighted the extraordinary adaptability of human beings. In the US, nine in ten are practicing social distancing. Crises can bring out the best in us.
Most of us are wondering how long the isolation and economic dislocations will last. When can we return to life and business as normal?
Normal is the last thing we should hope for.
Humanity has been living unsustainably in so many ways: ecologically, biologically, economically, and politically. COVID-19 is a wake-up call. If we return to business as usual, this crisis will seem as child’s play relative to the catastrophes that await. It is high time to usher in a new normal. Let’s start envisioning that world now.
In the new normal, health care and sick leave will be rights, so that sick people don’t continue working and infecting co-workers because they can’t afford medical care.
In the new normal, all citizens will have a guaranteed basic income so that they don’t risk eviction at every economic downturn.
In the new normal, the economy will serve the needs of people—like the stimulus package is doing—rather than people serving the needs of a rapacious economy.
In the new normal, it will be considered immoral—and illegal—for the top one percent to control as much wealth as the bottom 80 percent.
In the new normal, the virus of fake news will die out, and scientific expertise—epidemiological or climatological—will be respected and the foundation of public policy.
In the new normal, fossil fuel’s rape of the Earth will cease, and our power will come from the sun, the wind, and the Earth herself.
In the new normal, humans will live gently on the Earth, a part of Nature, not apart from it. And we will grant the Earth time to heal from deforestation, the devastation of extractive industries, and the fever of climate change.
In the new normal, we will beware the economic fallacy of perpetual growth and focus instead upon sustainable lifestyles and community resilience.
In the new normal, small communities will thrive, each with its own food production, energy generation, and greenways.
Crises sweep away our societal delusions—rugged individualism, perpetual growth, domination of Nature—and reveal what is of enduring value: family, friends, beauty, altruism, and love.
If we fail to learn the lessons of COVID-19, a world of suffering awaits. Thus far, humans may be rising to the occasion, heeding the wake-up call.
We’re on the cusp of breakthrough or breakdown. Which will prevail?