Change and Viruses

These are strange times we’re living in. With virtually the whole human population in some form of lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic, our world as we know it is changing before our eyes. Human health has, for now, trumped the economy as society’s number one priority. Nations have retreated into themselves; closing borders and eliminating trans-border trade. The Economist is heralding the end of globalisation. It is almost encouraged that government should closely monitor people and restrict their behaviour. Un-adultered capitalism has (for the second time in 12 years) proved utterly un-resilient in the face of a major shock, forcing governments (for the second time in 12 years) to bail us out. Neo-liberalism favours fair-weather.

Not everyone observed strict lockdown rules. Here a group flout social distancing regulations on Elwood beach in Melbourne during Covid 19, April 2020. Copyright Tom Broadhurst.

The global world order is shifting, and leadership is being redefined. The most effective leaders in this crisis  – in New Zealand, Taiwan, Denmark – have shown humility, decisiveness and clear communication (both listening and speaking). Whereas the patriarchal approaches of the traditional heavyweights has led to the highest rates of coronavirus infection and death in USA, Russia, Brazil and UK. The out-dated strong men have proved less effective than the empathetic strong women.

The virus itself has proven indiscriminate, effecting people of all backgrounds, flavours and resources. Nevertheless, the poor are (as usual) most threatened by the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, whilst many of the super-rich continue to get richer.

Encouraging signs… Note in a house window in Balaclava, Melbourne, expressing solidarity during Covid 19 lockdown. Melburnians placed teddy bears in their windows, creating something of an urban treasure trail for local children. Copyright Tom Broadhurst.

Closer to home, schools and businesses have adapted their working practices – using technology to engage their learners and employees wherever they are. The daily commute is, for many, a matter of hoping from their bed to their dining table. People are learning new skills or re-visiting old ones, and are reconnecting with their families, neighbours or housemates. The general pace of life – at least where I am in Melbourne – is slowing down. Creativity is being unleashed. Nature has been given a break – air quality has improved, carbon emissions have dipped, wild animals are occupying some of the spaces we’ve (temporarily) vacated. Localism is the new globalism. Renewable energy is replacing fossil fuels. Are these short term survival measures, or a sign of things to come?

A penguin enjoys some respite from the usual hoards of tourists at St Kilda Pier, Melbourne, Australia, during Covid 19 lockdown, April 2020. Copyright Tom Broadhurst.

Yet as always there are winners and losers. Too many people have died, others are losing their livelihoods and struggling to feed their families. Domestic violence and mental health issues are sadly on the rise. Some people are scared. Many are changing their plans, some are changing their perspectives. The rules of the game have been turned on their head. Collectively, our priorities might just be changing.

Quiet and calm were restored to the usually packed public spaces of Melbourne. Here St Kilda skate park lies closed and deserted during Covid 19 lockdown. Copyright Tom Broadhurst.

With prominent conservationists and scientists highlighting the zoonotic origins of Covid-19, we’re beginning to understand the link between the destruction of nature and the wellbeing of our own species. The penny might finally drop in society’s collective consciousness that our ‘old’ consumption-based economic system is incompatible with the viability of our planet and civilisation. Reflecting on the lessons of the pandemic, it feels like a good opportunity to create a new ‘normal’ – one that’s clean, fair, green, inclusive, equal, resilient. One that prioritises wellbeing over wealth.

Against this turbulent backdrop my own world is rapidly changing. In the last 2 months, I’ve moved house, changed jobs, and my partner and I are expecting our first child any day now. Now I’ve just written my first blog for nearly 2 years, and I’ve not made a single joke. My whole world is changing.  Whatever next?

The Conservatory at St Kilda Botanical Gardens, on a peaceful morning during Covid 19 lockdown. Taken on a smartphone on my daily wander. Copyright Tom Broadhurst.

One thought on “Change and Viruses

  1. Great post Tom. I really hope that you are spot on about changes and we grab this opportunity. Travelling into London everyday for work and seeing the capitalism blood flow through the veins of the capital makes me wonder if anything will! Fingers (and everything) crosses leaders wake up.

    Like

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