EIEE Inside – Fall 2020 – Lessons from the Nature
This new normality we live has changed so many features of our emotional and social lives that one wonders whether it is starting to change, at a deeper level, our priorities. Has climate change become a worry of the past, to give space to a whole new set of preoccupations, as news coverage might suggest. Or is the overwhelming presence of Nature that the COVID pandemic represents a reminder of human fragility?
From the middle of the storm, we still lack the necessary distance to study this phenomenon thoroughly. Nonetheless, we can look into the past to search for significant changes in priorities and values brought about by pandemics (a great book to do this is Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present by Frank M. Snowden).
When you start thinking about it, the existential questions pandemic brings to the table are very similar to the questions climate change raises. They concern our willingness to trade off some of our welfare to protect society’s most vulnerable individual. They involve intergenerational welfare trade-offs. They question our relationship with Nature and speak to our connectedness as humans, across borders and income groups. Even in popular culture, disaster movies’ plots, but for the odd meteorite, develop around germs or whether extremes of some sort. The challenge is always the same: will the threat unite us, leading to success, or will we succumb to Nature’s will?
More than competing for prime time with climate change, the COVID pandemic may be the dress rehearsal that will help us figure out who we want to be.