Science, Technology

Coronavirus: The end of the world as we know it?

Coronavirus scared man
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

I firmly believe that how humanity responds to the novel coronavirus will change the course of history. No, the world won’t end because of this pandemic. But we have to face the fact that COVID-19 is already changing the world as we know it.

Things may never be the same.

Quarantine and social distancing

I am writing this from the Philippines, where today the entire main island of Luzon has been placed under “enhanced community quarantine“.

We know, of course, that social distancing is necessary to help slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. Other nations are also implementing lockdowns and other drastic measures.

Business as usual is a thing of the past.

A war without a leader

Unfortunately, however, humanity is lacking leadership, according to historian and author Yuval Noah Harari.

“Today humanity faces an acute crisis not only due to the coronavirus, but also due to the lack of trust between humans. To defeat an epidemic, people need to trust scientific experts, citizens need to trust public authorities, and countries need to trust each another. Over the last few years, irresponsible politicians have deliberately undermined trust in science, in public authorities and in international cooperation. As a result, we are now facing this crisis bereft of global leaders that can inspire, organize and finance a coordinated global response.”

Coronavirus as truth serum

One way the coronavirus is changing the world is exposing the limits of populism.

“Perhaps the most important lesson of the past weeks of coronavirus is that the recent rise of authoritarianism globally and the rise of populism and nationalism among Western-style democracies provide a poor recipe for sound, trusted, experienced management of an unfolding global health emergency.”

In fact, this pandemic is shattering America’s illusions, exposing the weaknesses of its systems.

“The problem is that American bureaucracies, and the antiquated, hidebound, unloved federal government of which they are part, are no longer up to the job of coping with the kinds of challenges that face us in the 21st century. Global pandemics, cyberwarfare, information warfare—these are threats that require highly motivated, highly educated bureaucrats; a national health-care system that covers the entire population; public schools that train students to think both deeply and flexibly; and much more.”

Wake-up call for humanity

I’m not happy that people are dying, but part of me does think this pandemic is Mother Nature stepping in because humankind is destroying this planet.

Maybe, as Dutch trends forecaster Li Edelkoort said, this “might be the reason we survive as a species“.

“‘The virus will slow down everything,’ Edelkoort notes. ‘We will see an arrest in the making of consumer goods. That is terrible and wonderful because we need to stop producing at such a pace. We need to change our behavior to save the environment. It’s almost as if the virus is an amazing grace for the planet.’”

Whether we will learn the lessons remains to be seen. What’s certain, though, is that this pandemic will change how we shop, travel, and work for years.

“Traces of such habits will endure long after the virus lockdowns ease, acting as a brake on demand. On the supply side, international manufacturers are being forced to rethink where to buy and produce their goods — accelerating a shift after the U.S.-China trade war exposed the risks of relying on one source for components.

“In the white-collar world, workplaces have amped up options for teleworking and staggered shifts — ushering in a new era where work from home is an increasing part of people’s regular schedule.”

Listen to the scientists

I hope this crisis will teach humanity to again believe in the importance of science. And that governments will realize they need to cooperate to save our world.

We can no longer allow the epidemic of fact-resistant humans to spread all over the world. And we can no longer afford to listen to populist leaders.

Maybe this pandemic really is a form of self-defense on the part of Planet Earth.

I can only hope that we will learn our lesson and embrace new ways of thinking and living before it’s too late.