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The world is a bleak place at the moment. The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting all countries, rich and small, and we literally have no tools to fight this terrible disease other than social distancing and self-isolation. With many countries now in lockdown to ‘flatten the curve’ and protect limited healthcare resources, there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering from coronavirus infection, and the death toll is rising. How is it possible to remain positive?
Psychologists will agree that a positive mental attitude in times of great danger is a powerful coping mechanism, so let’s see if we can find a silver lining to the black cloud currently hanging over us. Fundamentally, the good news is that this pandemic will come to an end in the not too distant future, and a vaccine will be found, even though it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.
And while life may never be the same again post COVID-19, there are some important positives that we can take away from all this, and these should not be underestimated.
The draconic measures taken by governments in affected countries affected to reduce social contact and, by extension, economic activity has had a surprisingly rapid effect on air pollution and CO emissions. Researchers in New York have discovered the CO emissions from cars are down by nearly 50% compared to last year. In China, Italy, the UK and elsewhere, pollution is down. There were even rumours of swans and dolphins having returned to the canals of Venice, now devoid of traffic, though sadly that turned out to be fake news.
Take a look at the satellite pictures below to see the drastic change in China over just a few short weeks. After businesses closed their doors, transportation and social movement large brought the vast country to a standstill, the burning of fossil fuels dropped and air quality improved significantly. The impact of that alone will be felt worldwide.
“In their efforts to reach Net Zero - achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere - by 2050, it is crucial that the government continues to listen to expert advice when it comes to making important decisions,” suggests a spokesperson for Geo Green Power, a renewable energy expert. The evidence we now have speaks for itself.
We increasingly live in an age of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ where opinions are often given equal weighting to factual knowledge, possibly because modern forms of communications have actually made it quite hard for us to tell one from the other.
Not that long ago, the then Justice Secretary Michael Gove proclaimed that “Britain has had enough of experts,” when it came to predicting the economic impact of Brexit. The denial of climate change and the safety of vaccines are other examples where expert knowledge has been pushed aside because it conflicts with a particular political agenda.
If we were in danger of losing our ‘faith’ in science, somehow believing it to be less relevant than it once was, then the current public health crisis is a painful reminder of how irresponsible we have been. Now, Boris Johnson broadcasts his daily updates flanked by the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, and the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, whose undisputed expert advice informs government policy on coronavirus and what we can all do to save lives.
In our current crisis, healthcare workers including specialist ICU nurses and highly trained doctors have never been held in higher esteem (nor, sadly, in shorter supply). And if anyone doubted the essential frontline role played by our National Health Service against the war against COVID-19, perhaps their assessment of how the NHS should be reformed will now have changed for the better.
Source: Financial Times
All the above are huge shifts in behaviour that no-one could have predicted before the pandemic struck. And there are more. Online technologies are stepping up to the mark, making it possible to carry on working, to continue with education, to communicate with friends and family, to provide essential entertainment and support. From working out with Joe Wicks in the morning to watching Netflix in the evening, a modicum of continued normality is made possible thanks to the internet.
Seeing our world in peril focuses the mind and the heart and reminds ourselves of what really matters. With any luck, we will emerge a kinder, more enlightened society that implements the lessons learnt.