The World to Come

As a new decade dawned on us at the beginning of the year, with a clear sense of foreboding, we nervously observed China’s surreal situation. A new virus was taking the lives of many and was forcing the government to lock down the entire country. Images of desolate empty cities that were more appropriate to an apocalyptic film than real life were not the New Year greeting we wanted. Everyone’s wish that 2020 would represent a year of success and wellbeing was starting to vanish – and we were only in the month of January. It was not long before Western countries such as Italy started confirming COVID-19 cases, and so as April arrived we were in the midst of a global pandemic that was challenging the most basic notions of daily life. While the current focus lies in trying to make this nightmare subside, many are starting to ponder the effects the spread of the corona virus will have in the future as a global crisis of this scale can trigger a dramatic transformation of society, for better or worse.




Economy

The spread of COVID-19 represents an immense blow to the economy, similar in scale to events such as 9/11 or the 2008 credit crunch. The IMF has described it as the worst crisis since the Great Depression. So, the economic consequences of the pandemic are profound. Measures imposed to fight Coronavirus have brought economic activity to a halt. Lockdown has meant consumers have had to stay home, frontiers have been closed, and businesses forced to shut their doors. This has lead to most businesses such as restaurants receiving no sources of revenue whilst still needing to cover costs. The result of this is bankruptcy. With businesses going bust, many people will be left unemployed, exacerbating dried up consumption levels. This is why economists predict a 3% shrink in the global economy this year.


These grim predictions have shattered confidence in global stock markets leading to historical falls. The FTSE 100 has seen its biggest quarterly drop since 1973 as a result of Coronavirus. This is a cause for concern because this economic disaster could lead to more deaths than the virus itself, considering that for every 1% increase in unemployment, around 40,000 people die due to the dire effects of poverty.

Furthermore, the spread of the virus will also affect the future of global supply chains. This crisis has left many nations lacking necessary resources as international supply chains have been disrupted. This could lead to the realisation that robust domestic-based supply chains are better than global supply chains as it will make an economy resilient to trade shocks such as global pandemics. This might encourage governments to engage in protectionism in order to create a strong domestic industry that will provide the nation in times of crisis.


Additionally, as a result of Coronavirus we might see a rise in inequality as the poor are less able to adapt to the needs of the current situation. Children from less affluent backgrounds might not be able to be educated remotely, as their parents aren’t able to teach them or they don’t have high speed internet that enables virtual teaching. This is important because a lack of educational opportunities reduces the possibility to break out of the poverty cycle. Moreover, such households are likely employed in jobs that put them directly in contact with the virus such as delivery services. So, this global pandemic could create the worst economic crisis seen in the last decades and has the potential to have lasting impacts on equality and economic integration.

Politics

The global crisis that Coronavirus has unleashed could also lead to the transformation of the political world. This pandemic will possibly shake up the composition of governments around the world. This is because ill judged measures to fight the virus will put governments under public scrutiny as their irresponsible measures have led to a massive loss of human life.


Also, the economic disaster this pandemic will cause will make the fulfilment of electoral promises extremely difficult, leading to widespread discontent. This could mean many governments are forced to resign. For example, the Spanish government has been publicly criticised by sources such as the NY Times for amateurish measures to contain the virus and encouraging mass demonstration despite previous knowledge of there being many COVID-19 cases. Moreover, the Coronavirus crisis has led to the realisation that it is vital for institutions to be full of renowned experts rather than political loyalists, as this will ensure that future catastrophes are professionally and appropriately managed.


In addition, this global pandemic could lead to a political transformation as it could change how elections function. Nations that are scheduled to hold elections this year such as the USA will have to devise a strategy for people to vote safely. This will most probably lead to the development of an online system of voting. Once this infrastructure is implemented, it will most certainly stay as people will recognise the convenience of this system. This is significant because a more convenient voting system, will likely lead to higher voter turnout, especially from millennials, meaning electoral fates would no longer be mostly decided by OAPs.


Coronavirus will also massively affect international relations. One possibility is that it will strengthen global cooperation as governments will recognise how important international assistance is to prevent global fiascos. This could result in the strengthening of international and global alliances. However this doesn’t seem likely since Trump has already announced plans to stop US funding for the WHO. So, a more likely outcome is that this crisis will lead to a rise in xenophobia. Populists will seize on the opportunity to state that other countries are the source of dangerous diseases and thus are a threat. Therefore, it is clear that Coronavirus could lead to a severe shake up in global politics, as local governments and even international organisations will not be immune to this virus.

Environment

The environment will also experience massive changes as a result of the Coronavirus. In the short term, the halting of economic activity will be extremely beneficial for the environment. Lockdown measures have meant that factories have been forced to close, airports have become ghost towns and roads are rarely used, leading to less resource exploitation and less pollutants being released. The ESA has registered an impressive fall in pollution levels across Europe and for the first time in a while people can see wildlife in Venice’s clear canals.


This global pandemic could also have long term effects on the environment. The devastating health effects of Coronavirus have led to the realisation that expertise matters. People are clearly seeing that experts’ health warnings about the virus are true. This could lead to people taking scientists more seriously, which might translate to people reducing their carbon footprint due to experts’ warning about climate change.

Furthermore, infrastructure that has been put in place to enable remote living will stay in place after the crisis, as people start to realise that meetings, classes or appointments can be easily done online. This could reduce traffic congestion and energy consumption, which will benefit the environment tremendously. Additionally, if we are able to overcome the challenge of dealing with a global pandemic, this could potentially callus the minds of people around the world, triggering an urge to solve the enormous challenges our society currently faces such as climate change, in order to avoid future catastrophes.


Lastly, Coronavirus could be a transformative force for the environment because it will finally make people realise that we need to stop exploiting the world’s resources. If wildlife habitats are preserved, animal viruses such as COVID-19 will stay in animal bodies and will not be transferred to humans. Therefore, both in the short and long term, this global pandemic could bring about massive environmental change.

Society

The Coronavirus debacle also has the power to transform the way societies around the world function. This crisis will seriously impact the social perception of health and hygiene. People that live through this global pandemic will possibly wash their hands much more frequently – it might become second nature, and they could reduce human contact to avoid germs. It is likely that people will experience PTSD and will try to limit how often they meet others. This could lead to societies experiencing greater social distance and the birth of a truly online world.


Moreover, this crisis has put a particular spotlight on many unmet needs, which might lead to a social change in priorities going forward. Coronavirus has clearly demonstrated the importance of health services, meaning we could see health becoming a priority for governments, leading to hospitals around the world no longer being underfunded. Past events demonstrate that this is a very likely possibility. When World War II came to an end, one of the main post-war priorities was national health, leading to the creation of the NHS in the UK. Linked to changing priorities, we might also see a change in social values. This crisis might see the death of individualism and the rise a sense of community, as people will begin to realise the interdependent nature of a society and how not having a safety net for the poor or adequate health services leaves everyone more exposed to threats such as global pandemics. So, in the future we might see people more concerned for the well being of their society rather than their own individual wellbeing, which could see rising support for interventionist policies.


A further social impact this pandemic will have is a huge loss of human life. There is a big question mark on how such a huge loss of life affects society. The figures we see in news channels are not statistics, they are human beings. We can recall from previous events that this is bad news. The tragic losses the USSR endured in World War II led to a whole generation being raised without a father figure which resulted in many social ills such alcoholism. Thus, the Coronavirus disaster could dramatically change people’s lifestyle, which will have substantial social effects.



So, ultimately, due to the amount of possible scenarios this global pandemic could lead to, it is hard to predict what the post-COVID19 world will look like. Nevertheless, we can be certain that, as has happened with previous global crisis such as 9/11, the paradigm will shift - for better or for worse.

Carlos B, Y13


0 views