By Joakim Ydebäck
Certain icons throughout time have remained famous because of their immortal quotes and peculiarities. Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Churchill, who, hardly unknown to anyone, was the British prime minister and one of the main leaders of the Allied forces during the Second World War at the time. Whether or not he actually uttered these famous words, the meaning may still be true. Crises often expose vulnerable societal systems and faulty political structures. The current pandemic, while having had disastrous outcomes for many people, could serve as inspiration to fix those deep issues that we have ignored for so long. And a lot of that effort has already begun…
You might have heard about the European Green Deal. The European Union has this year decided to raise its goals to reach green politics and green economy. In 2050, the continent will be climate neutral and work towards a new kind of circular economy which will use public and private finances to enact this change. While these goals may sound nice, we cannot be sure that all of this reimagination of our way of living will be met. However, the establishment of these goals is enough to know that the European Union views climate change as one of the most dire questions with which they deal. Likewise, it appears that the newly-elected President of the United States, Joe Biden, will focus more on the climate compared to earlier administrations. While his administration may not establish a Green New Deal, like representatives of the left-wing Democrats want, he may regain the United States’ reputation as an opponent of climate change.
On a similar note, people living in urban areas (not least in megacities like New York City, Tokyo and Paris) have experienced lockdowns as the spread of the virus returns over and over again. While many have lived all their lives in cities, many now experience a need to relocate to more rural areas. One might talk about a new green wave where typical city-dwellers move out in the countryside in an effort to achieve privacy and diminishing stress. What implications this sort of relocation will entail is hard to say but living closer to nature could help against people’s sudden mixed feelings of claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Will we see a diminishing urbanisation?
While the isolation has been a curse for a lot of people, it may also teach us to fend for ourselves a lot more. As is often said, charity begins in the home. In this case, sustainability begins in the home. When people are less able to fix everyday issues by buying new things, they must learn to repair things instead of wasting them. It is not such an unusual thing, at least it wasn’t a few decades ago. By returning to older housekeeping we may attain a level of everyday sustainability which may make our wasteful lifestyles decline and fix some of our environmental issues at large.
This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. I do not think the pandemic has been positive for anyone who has experienced it. But the time after the pandemic may mean positive things if we learn to not waste the moments during which we may abandon old, unsustainable structures and fix the problems of today. All crises through history have meant fundamental changes. There are scholars who argue that the Black Death in the late stages of the Middle Ages caused people, specifically in Italy, to reevaluate their way of looking at human nature and the Renaissance was born. The Napoleonic Wars led to the great powers of Europe to settle their century old disputes which had led to constant conflicts. The end of the Second World War meant getting rid of old autocratic structures and establishing new economic innovations to handle a new world order. While one may argue against these crises leading to new and sustainable structures (I certainly question the notion) one cannot let a crisis go to waste when it may be our only chance to make something better.
Illustration: Pretty Sleepy
Joakim Ydebäck is studying at the Peace and Development Program at Uppsala University. He’s currently doing an internship at the Swedisy Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His four main interests include talk radio, international opinion polls, political crises and somber jazz music.