The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our society to a cross-roads. Measures that seemed impossible to consider previously: near-universal remote work and education, drastic reductions in travel, universal basic income, and others, are suddenly in place – made possible by our desire to limit the death toll (and economic consequences) of this disease.
However, it’s possible that the lives these measures save from COVID-19 may pale in comparison to the lives they save in other ways. I (uncharacteristically) will not attempt to do the math1, but we almost certainly see a massive reduction in traffic fatalities these days, probably a reduction in violent crime, and although harder to measure, we may be saving lives by doing less damage to our environment.
We are forced to consider what we value as a society. Over a million people a year die from traffic fatalities. This number is likely to be greater than the death toll that COVID-19 will reap. And yet we are not banning automobiles. But the math is not simple. A total ban on automobiles would cost lives for all sorts of complex reasons. Just as the current social distancing measures will inevitably cost some lives as well.
We probably don’t have enough data to really do the math on whether any given action will cost or save lives in the long run. But we can decide as a society what our priorities are, what kinds of deaths are unacceptable, and how we want to improve ourselves and grow.
I hope that we all can take some time to reflect on this and recognize that all the options have always been on the table. Climate change might be thought of as being in the early stage of exponential growth, like when the COVID-19 cases numbered in the tens or twenties. But if we fail to take effective action, the growth will happen and will accelerate2. The consequences of unchecked climate change will easily dwarf the impact of COVID-19. We should recognize now that we have options available, rather than wait until it’s too late.
- Although other have: http://www.g-feed.com/2020/03/covid-19-reduces-economic-activity.html
- See analysis compiled by the United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/climate-change/
2 thoughts on “Reflection on a Pandemic”
Thank you Jesse for your wisdom. As always you bring the deeper perspective most of the times is not even mentioned in the news. I am equally curious what will be the aftermath of the measures to industries and professionals. Most importantly I would like to add that this time is given for all of us as a chance to live our precious lives more consciously and harmoniously with others. Instead of waiting for ‘when will it be over/’ we can ask ourselves ‘how am I going to use this opportunity to live harmonious life?’
Great points Jesse. I also want to add to your valuable perspectives that this time is a gift for all of us to reflect on what is really important. Although I am curious how this event will shape us, one thing is helping me is the shift in my attitude from asking ‘When will this be over?’ to ‘How will I use this golden opportunity to live more harmonious life?’