What could be the World after Covid-19?

Written By: / Articles / Wednesday, 09 September 2020 11:52

The global coronavirus pandemic which has already caused unimaginable devastation and hardship, has brought our way of life to an almost complete halt. The outbreak will have profound and lasting economic and social consequences in every corner of the globe.  The Global spread of the coronavirus, (COVID-19) is the ultimate news story. On the one hand, new statistics are announced on an hourly basis. On the other, the idea of a mysterious new disease spreading from country to country plays on humanity’s deepest fears. Given both physical and psychological impacts of this novel coronavirus, it is time to examine its potential long-term effects on a global scale. One potential effect may be to alter global trends in the way in which almost everything we use is produced. The supply chains for innumerable products have become increasingly global and interconnected. The psychological and practical impact of disruption in supply chains due to COVID-19 may accelerate the reversal of the grand trend of supply chain globalization. This would have a major impact on the future of the global economy. Another long term effect of the current coronavirus epidemic is its impact on the future of megacities. As the world’s population continues to both grow exponentially and urbanize, the number of megacities-those with over 10 million people will continue to increase. According to UN, there will be 43 such cities by 2030. While much of the focuses in the international discourse over the future of such cities has focused on issues like smart transport, sustainability and food security but public health will be a major issue as well. If a new disease like COVID-19 were to take root in such a city, it could potentially spread to hundreds of thousands of people within a short time. Surprisingly, there appears to be a lack of innovative start-up activity in this field of public health in future cities. Covid-19 should spur aspiring entrepreneurs ’to fill this gap.

 In the era of globalization, international conferences and trade shows have become part and parcel of doing business. If COVID-19 continueto spread around the world over the coming months, we may well see a move towards virtual business conferences. In many countries,millions of workers are facing the bleak prospect of losing their jobs.According to a report of International Labour Organisation (ILO) about 40 coror workers in the informal sectors of India will be pulled down to acute poverty line due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.The World Bank said on 12th April,2020 that the Coronavirus outbreak has  severally disrupted the  Indian economy, magnifying pre-existing risks to its outlook.The World Bank estimated the Indian economy to decelerate to 5% in 2020 and projected a sharp  growth deceleration in fiscal 2021 to 2.8%  in a baseline scenario.Global economy could shrink by almost 1% in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.In the worst case scenario,the global output would contract by 0.9% instead of growing 2.5% in 2020.Governments are considering and rolling out large stimulus packages to avert a sharp downturn of their economies which could potentially plunge the global economy into a deep recession.On grand scale, the coronavirus by discouraging travel and potentially reversing trends in supply chain globalization, is driving people apart. In another sense, it is bringing people together. Coronavirus do not discriminate, based on nationality or religion. They touch on our most basic human condition and human fears. Understanding the disease, slowing its spread and developing vaccination, will require intense international cooperation. One of the dangers of COVID-19 is that it will increase suspicion or racism against those who appear to hail from areas where the virus most prevalent. Instead, it should trigger an emphatic human response to those suffering. Additionally, the threat of a mysterious respiratory disease spreading around the world should put the day-to-day partisan political debates in perspective. There are something that are bigger than any one politician, party or country.

     In the face of such turmoil of COVID-19, as the UN Secretary-general has indicated COVID-19 will require a response like non before-a “war time” plan in times of human crisis. And as we inch from a “war time” response to “building back better”. We need to take on board the environmental signals and what they mean for our future and wellbeing because, COVID-19 is by no means a “Silver lining” for the environment. Visible positive impacts-whether through improved air quality or reduced greenhouse gas emissions-are but temporary, because they come on the back of tragic-economic slowdown and human distress. The pandemic will also result in an increase in the amount of medical and hazardous waste generated. This is no one’s model of environmental response least of all an environmentalist’s. And indeed, the  Scripps Institute of Oceanography has highlighted that fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10% around the world and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels. Any positive environmental impact in the wake of this abhorrent pandemic, must therefore be in our changing production and consumption habits towards cleaner and greener. Because only long-term systematic shifts will change the trajectory of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. So in the aftermath of the crisis when economic stimulus packages composed of infrastructure are designed, there is a real  opportunity to meet that demand with green packages of renewable energy investment, smart buildings, green and public transport etc. With respect to the disease itself, part of the challenge ahead is understanding where such disease come from, because the health of our planet plays an important role in the spread of zoonotic diseases i.e disease originating from pathogens that transfer from animals to humans. As we continue to encroach on fragile ecological ecosystem, we bring humans into ever-greater contact with wildlife. Further, illegal wildlife trade and illegal wet market are not infrequent causes of such diseases. Around 75% of new and infectious diseases are zoonotic and in fact about 1billion cases of illness and millions of death occur every year from these diseases.

   Humanity’s expansion on the terrestrial earth surface means that today human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface, squeezing wildlife and nature into an ever smaller corner of the planet. And yet, nature is critical to our own survival: nature provides us with our oxygen, regulates our weather patterns, and pollinates our crops, produce our food, feed and fibre but it is under increasing stress.  Changes in temperature, humidity & seasonality directly affect the survival of microbes in the environment & evidence suggests that disease epidemics will become more frequent, as the climate continues to change. As we continue our relentless move into natural habitats, contact between human and reservoir hosts increases, whether as a result of urbanization, habitat loss and fragmentation or live animal markets- all of which increases the likelihood of interaction between these vectors and humans. According to IPBES, we have seen 100million hectares of agricultural expansion in the tropics between 1980 and 2000, roughly equal to the size of France and Germany combined. The wild must be kept wild. It is time to restore our forests, stop deforestation, invest in the management of protected areas and propel markets for deforestation- free products. Where the legal wildlife trade chain exists, we need to do a far better job of improving hygiene conditions. And of course, there is the urgent need to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the fourth most common crime committed worldwide

   The better we manage nature, the better we manage human health. This is why the post 2020 biodiversity framework that countries around the world are expected to agree on this year, matters greatly. An important pillar in our post-COVID recovery plan must be to arrive an ambitious, measurable and inclusive framework, because keeping nature rich, diverse and flourishing is part and parcel of our life’s support system. Even more important when you consider that between 25-50% of pharmaceutical products are derived from genetic resources. And as the engines of growth begin to rev up again, we need to see how prudent management of nature can be part of this “differenteconomy “that must emerge, one where finance and actions fuel green jobs, green growth and a differentiate way of life, because the health of people and the health of planet are one and the same and both can thrive in equal measure. Whatever our differences, viruses like COVID-19 known no borders, we all are one in this fight together.

About the Author

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. Presently, he is teaching Mathematics at JCRE Global College. Jugeshwor can be reached at: [email protected] Or WhatsApp’s No: 9612891339.

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