The relationship between us and Covid-19 is a quite complicated and uncertain one. No one knows with certainty how long we will be linked and what will be expecting us afterwards. Nevertheless, I have three wishes for the post-Covid world.
1. Black Swan
There is that metaphor (based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans do not exist) describing a high profile, hard-to-predict, and rare event that is beyond the realm of normal expectations and comes to most as a total surprise. The Covid-19 pandemic is certainly such an unexpected event of large magnitude and consequence and with even a dominant role in history. My first wish is therefore obvious and even simple – let us open our minds and understand that similar other “black swans” (not only in the form of pandemics) are in our footsteps, waiting to emerge and reveal their existence.
The generally accepted theory for a pandemic is linked to the relationship between humans and the environment. A pathogen (bacterium, parasite or virus) living in cohabitation with an animal in a remote place (mostly forest) will only be confronted with humans in case we are intervening intensively in that living space of that animal (or even if we destroy it). Jumping from that animal (usually a vertebrate) to a human, an infectious disease might be the consequence – with the option to spread further and to become a pandemic. We have been confronted with such a zoonosis in the case of for example Ebola, Spanish flu, and swine flu. To overcome the danger, we were essentially focussing to find an answer to that SPECIFIC pandemic, but not to address the general issue. As long as the conversion of forests (about 30% of the land surface of our globe) continues – that means the annual destruction of an area the size of Belgium (about 2,500 trees cut down each minute), we have to accept that pandemics will become our permanent companion. My second wish is, therefore: to let us stop (“severely reduce” would be a first promising step) global deforestation.
My third wish is circulating around the word “normal”. Every time someone is asking in my presence “When will the normal times come back after this Covid-19 pandemic”, I am flabbergasted about that naive indirect wish. We all should know that our perception is framed heavily by major events. Someone, who witnessed a major military confrontation, revolution or societal uproar knows that the time “after” was different. In post-Covid-19 times, our behaviour, expectations, ideas, mindset, relations, values and wishes will have changed a little bit (or possibly, even a lot). Take as an example WW2 and Europe – approval of cooperation, multilateralism and solidarity rose while antisemitism, fascism, nationalism and racism went down. Or look at 1968, this year of civil disobedience: not only civil rights, family, hierarchy, obedience, sexuality, but social justice were also seen in post-1968 in a different way. My third wish is therefore: please accept that the post-Covid-19 times will be different from pre-Covid – possibly even with more empathy and (international) solidarity, possibly with a higher acceptance of general hygiene standards, less random body contacts and new national, regional and global pandemic cooperation structures.