In a recent poll of nearly 1,000 business, government and academic leaders by the World Economic Forum for its 2022 Global Risks Report (17th edition), only one in 10 members surveyed expects the global recovery to accelerate over the next three years, and only one in six are optimistic about the outlook of the world.
Tourism is the economic lifeline for millions and according to the UNWTO data, 2021 international tourist arrival was 72% below 2019 pre pandemic levels, a 4% increase from 2020. As we start our 3rd year with Covid-19, uncertainty remains our present and future reality with the disruptive Omicron variant continuing to restrict travel and red-listing of countries.
“There is no great mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic – or of any modern pandemic. Contact, known as spillover, allows viruses to cross over between species and spread more rapidly around the world. Covid-19 is the sixth global health crisis since the flu pandemic of 1918 and its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities,” says the report from Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), “There are 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in mammals and birds – up to 827,000 of which could infect people.”
“The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use land, unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people,” said Dr Peter Daszak, chair of the panel which was convened by IPBES.
At the start of the new year, I wonder how bad it has to be before many with the ‘frog-in-a-pot’ mentality perceive the danger and act to be part of the solutions.
Unless we – consumers, businesses and governments – take preventive actions beyond responding to pandemic outbreaks when they occur, another pandemic is inevitable in the coming years. Unless we implement regenerative sustainability and get to a Climate Positive (also known as Carbon Negative) world before the destruction in nature becomes irreversible at 1.5Celsius above pre-industrial level, we will jeopardise ourselves and future generations.
As I write, I am comparing the dire numbers of the pandemic today as confirmed by the World Health Organisation compared to when it was first declared in March 2020 (view Travel Uncertainty in the Face of Covid19). Today, there are 326,279,424 confirmed cases compared to 127,749 at the start of the pandemic, and 5,536,609 deaths compared to 4,717.
Consumer awareness is high on the problems and the solutions. 2022 must be the Year to be Bold to drive the changes we need. Take a leap!
World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report since the start of the pandemic:
The global economy is facing an increased risk of stagnation, climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than expected, and fragmented cyberspace threatens the full potential of next-generation technologies — all while citizens worldwide protest political and economic conditions and voice concerns about systems that exacerbate inequality. The challenges before us demand immediate collective action, but fractures within the global community appear to only be widening. Stakeholders need to act quickly and with purpose within an unsettled global landscape.
Analyses of the risks from societal fractures—manifested through persistent and emerging risks to human health, rising unemployment, widening digital divides, youth disillusionment, and geopolitical fragmentation. Businesses risk a disorderly shakeout which can exclude large cohorts of workers and companies from the markets of the future. Environmental degradation—still an existential threat to humanity—risks intersecting with societal fractures to bring about severe consequences. Yet, with the world more attuned to risk, lessons can be drawn to strengthen response and resilience. In 2020, the risk of a pandemic became reality. As governments, businesses, and societies grapple with COVID-19, societal cohesion is more important than ever.
Tensions will result from a divergent recovery. Rapidly and slowly recovering countries alike will need to navigate economic and societal gaps to restore social cohesion, boost employment and thrive.
The pandemic’s cascading impacts are impeding the visibility of emerging challenges, including climate transition disorder, increased cyber vulnerabilities, greater barriers to international mobility, and crowding and competition in space. Global divisions risk deepening at a time when societies and the international community urgently need to collaborate to check COVID-19 and heal its scars.