June 28, 2022

Chapter 7 – still living in the Corona Era

February 2022

I was looking back at my post from April 2020 about the Corona era, quite a lot has happened since then and I thought it may be time to gather a few more ideas and ruminations about it.

We’ve been through a number of Corona-virus waves since then and many people have suffered life-changing effects up to and including death in that time. The world-wide pandemic has dominated reporting in the media and cast many other issues, which would otherwise have attracted more attention, into its shadow. The views and opinions below are my own and not affiliated in any way to any organisations within which I am active.

From my perspective, there are two broad issues which I see behind the Corona-virus pandemic and these are climate change with the expansion of human habitation and the issue of education/learning. Climate change is, in itself, an amalgamation of many, many issues and I will note a few of them below. Here are some interesting perspectives as examples:

What the COVID-19 Pandemic Tells Us About Climate Change and Diplomacy
The stress of the pandemic has reinforced nation-first mentalities, deepened inequalities, and weakened the multilateral system. To fight global warming, governments must move beyond thinking in such ...
Global tipping points: Climate change and the coronavirus
We cannot ignore the compounding effects of either and must take action before we reach the point of no return.

I see the need for fundamental changes to the way we see ourselves in the context of our place on this planet with its finite resources. The last decades, for me, were characterised by an incongruence between, on the one hand, knowing that what we were doing was not sustainable in the longer term, and, on the other, an atmosphere of “everyone can go everywhere and do anything”. People were flying for hours for “quick-breaks” and party weekends in the sun, travel and fuel was cheap, there were strawberries in winter in the widest possible sense.

The idea of sustainability, of trying not to use more than we can give back, was there but was nowhere near mainstream and had no place in the popular vision of the world. The valuation of objects and services did not include consideration of the resources used and waste or damage caused. There were attempts to price in some costs such as carbon offset certificates (link below) but it could be argued that these were still a long way from the measures that were really necessary.

A complete guide to carbon offsetting
Duncan Clark summarises the offsetting debate in this edited extract from The Rough Guide to Green Living

In addition, the human population on the planet continued to grow demanding ever more resources and space for housing whilst climate change made the areas possible to inhabit smaller and the basic necessities such as water more limited.

The distribution of wealth and resources between nations but also within societies has certainly not changed for the benefit of the majority of the earth’s human population in the last decades (Definitions Wikipedia). The idea of equal opportunities has always been visionary at best but a reasonably even playing field remains an important consideration for a stable and fair society. How can we counter current developments? I think that one of the key measures is to prioritise education. I mean education here not just as access to schooling but also as access and availability to life-long learning in a changing and less predictable world. Each area of the world will have its own individual priorities, some areas will need to focus on schools for all children, others on modernisation of existing structures and an extension of learning opportunities for adults.

How could we restructure our learning environment towards opportunities for life-long learning in a changing and less predictable world? I consider myself exceedingly fortunate to have had access to excellent schooling and higher education. After finishing higher education I started work in that area and was able to qualify further. So, in this case, I am very grateful to have access to life-long learning opportunities. Via work though I have contact with a lot of people who don’t have or haven’t had these opportunities. Particularly the less qualified part of the population (here in western/central Europe) has lower access than those with more qualifications to possibilities for further or other qualification. This compounds problems for those with a more physical workload (list of types by German agency here), in that when the workload takes its bodily toll over time there are few routes out for the individual concerned. These are the people here who would primarily benefit from life-long learning opportunities.

So what economic and political structures will be needed for a sustainable future? A future in which we only use what we can give back, a future which offers stability and opportunities for everyone and a future with a healthy planet upon which we can live…

Devenir Gris