It takes darkness to see the stars and by year end 2020, we are weary and wary of our new reality. Most of us are deeply introspective about what is important in life as we reach a hellish crossroad after decades of indifference and abuse of nature, biodiversity and marginalized vulnerable people; and an immense crisis of trust worldwide.
Covid-19 is seismic everywhere. Since springtime, we have learned new behaviours – we are greeting each other with elbow-bumps and foot-shakes, panic buying and sanitizing our groceries, volunteering to help our community, working from home and meeting virtually, wearing masks and social distancing, locking-down and attending Zoom mass and funerals. We have learned the hard way that we need to change our behaviour and mindset as wave upon wave shocked our economy and crushed spirits as the death toll mounts. Those who innovated, supplied and delivered necessities, fed and masked us, retailed online and developed vaccine cures are surviving the storm better; and as the ‘work from home’ quick-fix morphed into a digital nomad ‘work from anywhere’ lifestyle, the popularity of alternative rental places perceived as lower risk outpaced hotel stays.
In an effort to distill insights into the true impact of COVID-19 on the owners of small-to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Facebook collaborated with the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In early December, they released the ‘State of Small Business Report’ based on the ‘Future of Business Survey’ of over 150,000 small businesses around the globe. Among its key findings is that consumer-facing small businesses, including those in the travel and tourism sector, had endured the deepest levels of reduced sales and remain the most insecure about what the coming months will bring.
There is a startling and visible differential that separates East Asia from the West when it comes to Covid-19’s impact and death rates. Asia Times examined social habits and social culture, attitudes toward authority and privacy and recent historical and epidemic experience in weighing the discrepancy in Part 1 of 2 series; and examined political leadership, policy responses, geographic integration, vaccines, manufacturing capacity, virus mutations, race, weather and climate as influencing factors in Part 2. The multi-variable answer to this crucial East versus West comparison are vital learnings on how these communities will cope with the intersecting crises and threats at our doorstep.
We have gone over the dreaded tipping points and even with lockdown and the pause on travel this year, our average global temperature rose to 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, igniting megafires and extreme floods, droughts, hurricanes and locusts of biblical scope. We are running headlong to the 1.5°C limit, the absolute line in the sand when a series of one-way doors starts to close.
In every sphere of life, there are divisions and long overdue reckoning on social and environmental injustice and political reforms, triggering anger and mass protests worldwide. We witnessed the ramifications of racial inequalities in Covid-19 disparities and the global uprising against police brutality; and what started as Black Lives Matter protests have morphed into a movement for racial justice amid growing recognition that systemic racism denies people of colour equal access to economic, social, environmental and climate justice, as well as health equity, political power, civil rights and human rights.
Jonathon Porrit is founder of Forum for the Future, UK’s leading sustainable development charity, and their message of hope has a timeline. ”Our chosen actions impact each other and our interconnected world. Our key systems have been irreversibly shocked. Kickstarting a decade already set for extreme change: biosphere breakdown, economic crisis and reform, tech and governance nexus, equitable transitions, and regenerative openings are five interconnected and dynamic areas with major influence over planetary, human and economic health. We are all grappling with what’s next?. And the decisions we make right NOW have never mattered more. In a constantly unsettled world, there are countless ways forward. But only one opportunity – TO TRANSFORM. 2021 is critical to driving the transformative action for a just, sustainable and resilient world.”
In Our Big Question – Is there hope in hell?, Jonathon expounded, ”2021 is the decisive year. Getting it right means the 10 trillion dollars recovery programme worldwide will go towards getting economies back on their feet, restoring purchasing power and creating jobs as we simultaneously address the climate emergency, collapsing ecosystems, and deficits on social justice and racial equalities. Getting it right means that 2030 will be relatively hopeful for a stable future for humankind. If we get it wrong, the consequences for humankind are almost unspeakable.”
This is our last chance to act. In 2021, our biggest hope is not the Covid-19 vaccine … it is activating the activists in us. We need all-hands-on-deck NOW … get involved … pick a project you are passionate about and support a movement that can get it right. It must be NOW!