Covid 19 has changed the world forever

It was my next door neighbour who said the world has changed for good and gave me the idea of this blog post.

The view from our bedroom window. 

Now, when I am in the garden, I can hear the wind in the trees and birds singing, instead of the noise of traffic and aircraft. 

Covid 19 has certainly changed the world. The changes are unprecedented: thousands dying, businesses destroyed, jobs lost and livelihoods gone.

The Crisis.

There is widespread grief and depression, together with the fear of becoming infected and possibly dying and the loss of loved ones. Many people, including me, are feeling tired. At first I was worrying about how tired I am. Then I realised what the reason is. Professor Espie says that the constant influx of news regarding the Covid-19 outbreak is probably putting many people “in a state of high alert” and feeling a “sense of helplessness”, which may be “energy-sapping” for them. Furthermore, being at home all the time may be ridding many people of a healthy routine, which would typically help them wake up and feel ready to start their day.

This virus is a reminder that we’re not in control of much in life that really matters. So it’s not surprising we feel sad and helpless sometimes. We’re experiencing grief and loss and anxiety on a global scale.

I loved going to the fitness centre and my favourite coffee bars to read and check drafts. I miss them and I am sad about their closure – one in particular was a new enterprise created by four Greek friends. It is beautifully designed. Their drinks and food are unusual and of the highest standard. I also miss the Saturday market at which it seems the whole town promenades. We need to find ways of overcoming our depression.

One of my friends, who has a unique perennial plant nursery, was distraught. My garden is full of his beautiful plants that I have bought over the years. He has sown seeds and nurtured his plants which are now ready for sale. Not only is he unable to sell them; his livelihood has gone. His young wife died three years ago. How will he support his two young sons? But now he has recovered his hope. This heartbreak is typical of what so many entrepreneurs and business people have to face.

Governments are investing billions in compensation and providing support. Far larger sums are involved than in the financial crisis in 2008. But what about the poorer countries or those in which there is mass poverty? It is time that governments adopted Sovereign Money as a means of funding the huge sums needed without creating debt.

If efforts to control the virus in the developing world are not successful, the human toll could be enormous as the leader in the Observer 5th April 2020 points out. The disease could become endemic, repeatedly rebounding and recycling through migration, human contacts and second and third wave pandemics. Gordon Brown is calling for co-ordinated global government to tackle coronavirus . He has urged world leaders to create a temporary form of global government to tackle the twin medical and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said there was a need for a taskforce involving world leaders, health experts and the heads of the international organisations that would have executive powers to coordinate the response. A virtual meeting of the G20 group of developed and developing countries will be held, but Brown said it would have been preferable to have also included the UN Security Council. “This is not something that can be dealt with in one country,” he said. “There has to be a coordinated global response.” “This is first and foremost a medical emergency and there has to be joint action to deal with that. But the more you intervene to deal with the medical emergency, the more you put economies at risk”. It seems to me that, rather than including the UN Security Council, nations should empower it to do this task, one for which it was created.

There are huge supply shortages of masks and other protections.  Governments in different countries have reacted in different ways, some better, faster and more effectively than others. The UK is woefully short of testing equipment and protection for staff working in the NHS and in care homes. The European Commission said it was close to securing deals with suppliers of face masks, goggles, overalls and other gear to help meet an EU shortage of equipment essential to protect medical staff in the fight against the coronavirus. The bulk-buying power of a 500 million strong single market gives them an advantage.

It was claimed that the UK declined the help with sourcing masks offered by the EU.CEU. Coronavirus: Boris Johnson was urged to explain ‘ideological’ refusal of EU help buying medical equipment.

No one knows how long the pandemic will continue or whether it will evolve and continue in different forms. Thousands are dying in Europe. But deaths of the poor in India and the African continent are likely to run into millions. There have been pandemics before.

The Spanish flu in1918, lasting from January 1918 to December 1920, infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, behind the Black Death. The Great London Plague lasting from 1665 to 1666, killed an estimated 100,000 people—almost a quarter of London’s population—in 18 months. The Black Death of 1348 is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population. In total, this plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 475 million to 350–375 million. 

The threats to humanity. We thought the greatest threat to humanity was the self- inflicted climate chaos and the loss of biodiversity. But now we see a new equally dangerous self-inflicted one – the spread of pandemics. Covid 19 appears to have originated from a wild animal host in a Wuhan market Is factory farming to blame for coronavirus? by Laura Spinney.  But are there even greater dangers in the industrial approach to food production – factory farming and the use of toxic pesticides? A system in which animals never see the light of day is cruel. Are there even worse pandemics in store if we do not radically change our approach to food production? Not only has it harmed us; we have destroyed much of the wonderful diversity of the natural world and continue to do so. Thousands of species have been destroyed or are at risk of extinction. We need to move on to humane and sustainable agriculture such as the Soil Association , GM Freeze and Garden Organic promote.

So, is Covid 19 another wake –up call and, this time, we will take heed?

Will nations collaborate in meeting these challenges? Will nations be united or divided? Will the rich nations be less greedy, consuming one and a half planets worth of the earth’s resources every year? Will we pay more to the people, such as carers, who do essential jobs now that we know how important they are? Will we decide not to destroy nature’s diversity and begin to appreciate how vital it is to our survival? Will we value and respect difference and give up violence towards different nations?

Towards the end of World War 2, the United States and Britain began setting up institutions for reconstruction and to prevent war and international economic crises. The United Nations, and other international institutions and what became the European Union were formed. The Marshal Plan was created to support the European reconstruction and help was given to help Japan create what became the excellent industrial economy we know today.  Great leaders such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, George Marshall, Winston Churchill, William Beveridge (originator of the Welfare State), and Clement Attlee emerged.

Maybe great leaders will emerge again. However, in our time, all of us all of us have the capacity for great leadership, and we need to use it.

In his article Power, Inequality, Nationalism. How virus will change the world, Simon Tisdall asks “Will nations be more united or divided, more or less free? He sets out five challenges: Balance of power, Authoritarianism and democracy, Globalisation and multilaterism, Fragile world, Resilience and paranoia. In all these areas the world could go the worst way, leading to intensifying power rivalry in a fractured, damaged, poorer world. Or it is equally possible that over the longer term, democracies will come out of their shells to find a new type of pragmatic and protective internationalism? In other words, after the nightmare, a fresh start.

Let us hope it is the latter. And we need to remember that in a democracy, all of us have the power to influence the direction our country follows. We can vote and there are a huge number of influential NGOs we can support and be active in. All of us have power if we “Dare to be great” as the late Polly Higgins urged us as I do in my book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness.

The good the crisis is bringing us. 

People are adapting and reaching out. Many people are starting to grow food in their gardens. An eco-house community in Bishops Castle have created their own allotment and they are planting potatoes. Laura, my chiropractor, phoned me to ask how I am and whether she could help in any way. My fitness centre manager has given me fitness and balance exercises I can do at home.

Technology is helping us. People are holding business and social meetings on Zoom and Skype. We are using Zoom to read stories to our grandchildren. My wife’s Italian classes and Pilates classes are being held on Zoom https://zoom.us/. Our Yoga teacher is doing the same. Recently we, seventeen members of our family, held a one hour celebration of my birthday on Zoom, involving adults and children living in various places in UK and in Hong Kong.

The crisis has brought out the best in people. It is bringing out their natural kindness and love. My wife and I were told by our GP to self-isolate and stay at home. Neighbours are keeping an eye on us and doing our shopping. You have probably heard about Viral Kindness. Our road has formed a WhatsApp group. These groups are all over our town. Some forty households have formed a community, constantly communicating and having fun. We have got to know each other as never before – almost everyone. People are helping each other. Older people are having neighbours do their shopping and making sure they are not lonely.

A neighbour and her children wish me a happy birthday below our bedroom window.

I must admit, our beautiful town is a prosperous bubble; but I doubt that as far as kindness goes we are unique. Often the poorest people are the most generous.

Some nights ago at 8-00pm we joined the rest of the nation; we all opened our windows and clapped and cheered the people working so bravely in the National Health Service. We could hear the cheers all over the town. More recently we had another hand clapping event to thank all the people who are providing other essential services.

I notice that the crisis has brought out my love. I have been e-mailing many friends all over the world asking them how they are and telling them what we are doing here. In the process I am discovering how many friends I have.

An Easter egg tree for the children in the road on Easter Sunday

A Dolls Tea Party 

One of the benefits of our situation is peace. Now I can hear the wind in the trees and the robins and blackbirds singing above the almost silent roads, railway and sky. I am spending more time working in my garden, making it more beautiful. I am keeping company with an almost silent blackbird who flies in a low sweep to her nest in the climber on the wall of our house. Being in the garden is a nature cure for me in these worrying times. Also it will be more beautiful as a result. I have been sowing far more vegetable and flower seeds than usual into trays and putting them into my two plastic greenhouses. I am unable to give talks or go to meetings and I have time to do many things in the house and garden that I have neglected for years. A garden is good for our mental health – even if it is just a balcony or pots on a windowsill.

Other benefits. There have been huge reductions in carbon and nitrate emissions and other pollution on our streets. Politicians have been working together in a more collaborative way. The opposition in Parliament is behaving constructively. Thank goodness there is little talk of Brexit. Government is behaving more like a national government. The illiterate austerity policy is a thing of the past. A Citizen’s Basic Income is on the agenda. People are working from home. Perhaps that will become more commonplace, with all the benefits that come from it, including less stressful travel. 

Coronavirus shutdowns have had unintended climate benefits: cleaner air, clearer water

“I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful,” one scientist said.

Dramatic satellite footage shows ‘notable drop’ in air pollution over Italy after coronavirus lockdown restricts transport and industrial activity. Levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions were down across northern Italy in March. The European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-5 satellite spotted the emission levels changing. ESA shared an animation showing the dramatic change from January to March. That said, I do not ignore the large numbers of tragic deaths in Italy.

London deaths linked to noise pollution are reduced. Many London streets are free of pollution and noise. High levels of noise pollution in the capital have been linked to early death and a greater risk of a stroke. A study led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) gathered data from 8.6m people across London’s 32 boroughs . This demonstrates the benefits of using technology to work from home and holding meetings using Skype and Zoom, especially those that would otherwise involve flying.

Understanding of the virus and how it progresses is growing. In the UK and elsewhere medical people and scientists are collaborating. Policies to tackle the pandemic are evolving. Lack of equipment is being resolved. Massive new hospitals for Covid 19 victims are being created. We have no idea how long the pandemic will last, nor whether it will make an annual appearance. Could it result in nations realising the greater need to collaborate and work together as one species if we are to survive and we need to work together for a better world? 

A message of Hope – Protect the NHS and Save Lives

Maybe we shall decide that many of the changes we are making will become part of a transformation in how we live. And that will have an enormous benefit for both the planet and all life, including humans.

I am an author, writer and speaker. I give participative talks in communities, universities, schools and at conferences. My latest book The 21st Century Revolution – A Call to Greatness was Oxford Alumni Book of the Month for November 2016. Professor Katherine J. Willis, CBE, Principal of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Biodiversity, Department Zoology, University of Oxford said “I am greatly enjoying it; you write beautifully”. I update the book through my Blog which includes many other topics.

If you like what you have read, please spread the word.

 

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