COVID-19 conundrums

31st May 2020

2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this. My year was supposed to involve a personal celebration of completing my 50th year of remaining alive on the surface of this capricious planet. I’ve never really been one for big birthday celebrations, but I reckon getting to 50 is a decent milestone, so I figured was worth marking in some way by doing something special. It also happened to coincide with 20 years in permanent employment in the same job, which in this day and age I reckon is also a decent milestone.

Then coronavirus came along. As for most people globally, this has scuppered many plans and caused real concern for physical and mental welfare.

But the signs for a celebration of 2020 hadn’t been good anyway. Previous years had seen a ramping up of concerns over the biodiversity crisis, the impacts of global climate change, the plastic pollution problem, and so on. This had been good in the sense that even mainstream media in the UK had seemed to be devoting more time and attention to these issues (when not distracted by self-inflicted wounds such as the Brexit saga), but not good in that there were no clear solutions to any of these issues. Worse still, there seemed only to be resistance among many world politicians to acknowledging the scale of the issues or to making serious attempts to find solutions, yet they are the people that should be setting the agenda. Outside the UK, the Australian bushfire crisis in January 2020 (anyone remember those events?) illustrates this point perfectly.

Nevertheless, the coronavirus crisis has provided time for a pause, reflection, and contemplation. The challenges posed by living in a post-COVID 19 world — or as seems increasingly likely, living in a world with COVID-19 still omnipresent — are vexing. But have they sharpened focus on the conundrums?*1

COVID-19

Official name for this invisible yet omnipresent threat*2

Released from the market*3, now running amok

Ordinary life disrupted, overturned

Normality questioned, perhaps nevermore ….

A time to pause, a time to articulate

Vital questions for the 21st century

Identifying better ways: can we live inside the doughnut?*4

Restructuring: can we develop more regenerative, circular economies?

Universal basic income: can we support the unpaid, invisible workforces?

Seeing new futures: can we design economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow?

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Referents and notes:

*1 The acrostic draws inspiration from E. Magrane’s work on geopoetics, which he outlines as an emerging subfield of the geohumanities (see article published online in Dialogues in Human Geography. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820620908390). Some overarching questions to consider are as follows. Is the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis a microcosm of the wider climate/biodiversity/plastics crisis? Will the response to the immediate health/socioeconomic crisis be a stimulus (catalyst) for action to address these wider nature/socioeconomic issues?

*2 The name for the disease, not the virus responsible for the disease

*3 Although disputed by some, the coronavirus most probably emerged from a wet market in Wuhan, China. But this particular market can be seen as just the tip of the wider market-driven, rampant capitalism that increasing pushes human societies into conflict with nature (see D. Carrington (2020), ‘Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists’, The Guardian, 27th April 2020. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/27/halt-destruction-nature-worse-pandemics-top-scientists?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR1iFeomQQq7Y4ul32HeL5ra-87G_-ApSdQ3-atD-hixgSw27smfZEM2TvA)

*4 See Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ ideas (https://www.kateraworth.com/). She doesn’t claim to have all the answers but her ideas are thought provoking. Many of the lines in the acrostic draw on the points that she raises and that are debated at length elsewhere.

Other good links and resources on the coronavirus crisis, linked environmental issues, and potential responses include:

The GS10810 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GS10810/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Kelvin Mason’s blog site:

http://kelvinmason.weebly.com/blog/the-best-political-analyses-of-the-corona-pandemic

First Dog on the Moon cartoons:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/24/should-we-blame-bats-for-the-terrible-coronavirus-we-should-not-bats-are-our-friends