"Change is the only constant," said Heraclitus, a 5th century BC Greek philosopher.
Ever imagined a concert where people are standing six feet apart? Well, now it's reality. Novel coronavirus that has already been declared a pandemic, has kept people locked at home for quite some time and claimed millions of lives as well. While the world is on the verge of a second wave, myriad questions linger-- how long can people sit like this in their homes while the economy is collapsing? If the vaccine fails, will physical distancing be enough to contain the pandemic? How will the post pandemic world or the new normal look like?
While these questions seem too far-fetched, they need to be answered to make necessary strategies beforehand. In this composition, the author tries to envision both in optimistic and pessimistic ways about how the way of living may alter.
The Covid-19 has resulted in a global economic crisis where most countries are either in recession or depression. After the Great Depression in 1930, this is currently the worst economic crisis the world is facing. To contain the spread of the pandemic, more than one third of the world population were placed in lockdown. This led to a steep decline in economic activity as many people lost their jobs, the tourism industry shattered and the remittance-- which was an essential part of developing countries' economies-- ceased. If this scenario has to be changed, another surge in death toll might be imminent which makes emphasis on people's healthcare the first priority. However, if the recession continues, the world may experience a huge economic downturn resulting in a exacerbated global food crisis.
On a brighter side, if the world leaders form an allegiance to end the crisis and invest for the greater good, an enriching future can be anticipated. They may team up realising that this is a high time of economic transition making it more humane, rather than market and profit oriented. It was evident during the first wave that countries like the UK and the USA which prioritise the market more than other sectors, were the least prepared for the pandemic. This is clearly a lesson to push for bringing change in the existing system.
While many teaching and corporate jobs are being conducted virtually at present, the fact can't be ignored that many people are unemployed and that children from insolvent families are being deprived from their right to education. If the situation worsens along with the recession, it is very likely that soon a lot of people will again fall under the vicious abyss of poverty. Years of efforts and progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) might disintegrate.
Nevertheless, a different scenario is possible too. Countries, especially developing ones, may realise the importance of technology and work toward its advancement. With technological advancement, schools will only be a few clicks away, making education accessible for all helping to achieve gender equality in education. Illiteracy might decrease and with more people having access to the internet. Overall, the world may witness the emergence of a technologically advanced and research-oriented civilisation.
Social and personal life
Wearing masks, omnipresent temperature sensors, and widespread sanitisation have already become the norm and the practice will remain till herd immunity is achieved. With the realisation that many pandemics emerged due to wildlife trading, a ban in animal cruelty in the disguise of food production is even possible. While being enormously disruptive and painful, crises also invariably nurture the emergence of great common purpose, solidarity, creativity, and improvisation. And social media has opened little windows into how everybody else has responded and found their own coping mechanisms. Much free time in people's hands these days has unlocked an inner creativity and resourcefulness that can be shared widely online. People in their own ways have become reconnected with something that is increasingly lost in hectic modern life -- making and doing things from scratch and realising how deeply satisfying and fulfilling that can be.
Amidst all these personal life positivity, violence can't be overlooked; abuse and torture has increased as predators have their victims at proximity. According to many reports, domestic violence has soared dangerously. No matter how close social media has brought people, a lot have become traumatised during the lockdown loneliness, being overly anxious or due to precipitous unemployment and subsequent poverty. Many experts fear that mental illness can be severe after the pandemic is over. Even racism may become rampant as many believe that the pandemic was all China's fault, further fueling the xenophobia already prevalent in the western world. Nonetheless, people have become more aware during the pandemic and if the global villagers realise that it is time to express solidarity and lend a hand towards each other, such unfortunate conditions may be kept at bay.
Behind all the sufferings of the coronavirus pandemic, an even larger global crisis is lurking, the climate change. Could the international lockdowns help the environmental ease, or would it just return to business as usual as quickly as possible? Many city-dwellers have noticed an improvement in their urban environments with cleaner-smelling air, calmer, safer roads and bolder wildlife, which offers a glimpse of what a greener world might look like.
Indeed, satellite data have revealed a drop in atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide over cities and industrial centres across Europe and Asia as traffic and factories quietened -- falling in some regions by 30-40 per cent compared to this time last year. Levels of sooty particles in the air like nitrogen dioxide have also greatly reduced. So alongside slowing the transmission of the coronavirus, the lockdowns and consequent reduction in industrial air pollution itself have probably saved the lives of numerous people by reducing chronic air-born diseases. Global CO2 emissions for 2020 is estimated to fall by 8.0 per cent. This might help in achieving the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature increase below 1.5°C within a fixed period.
All in all, Covid-19 has disrupted lives just like a pebble does to a placid lake. Evidently, the world needs to get accustomed to the new normal. Predicting what the new normal might look like is nothing more than a wild guess. The safest prediction is that the new normal might be a mix of both good and bad outcomes, just like the bitter sweetness present in people's lives. For now, the only hope is that mankind emerges victorious from this battle against the coronavirus as soon as possible and let the future unravel what it holds.
The writer is an A level student at SFX Greenherald International School, Dhaka. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org