The world is certainly going badly. And it will get worse for a long time to come. The pandemic is ahead of us for at least another year; the number of victims will continue to rise sharply, all over the world. Many more people, especially in Africa, will die from the lack of vaccines and care that this pandemic has deprived them of. There will be more layoffs and bankruptcies everywhere. In France itself, people will fall into poverty from one day to the next; students will have to drop out of school because they don’t even have enough money to house and survive, and no one will do what it takes to provide them with the means to do so.
However, it should not be denied that, alongside this, there is a lot of good news.
Huge technical progress has been made very recently and is expected to happen soon. The incredible development of vaccines, in record time, is the most visible manifestation of this: Pfizer’s vaccine is over 94% effective, which is enormous, just one year after the virus’ genome was deciphered. Moderna’s vaccine is currently testing its booster, which will soon be usable after any other vaccine, to counter some of the variants that have appeared recently. And many other advances are emerging in the defence against this virus. For example, nasal sprays appear to be effective and could change the entire management of various forms of containment. In other areas, the progress, less specular, is gigantic: in the last ten years, the cost of solar energy has been divided by ten and that of wind power by two-thirds. And many other technologies are appearing every day to master the challenges of the climate; for example, the first zero-carbon container ships will be launched in 2023, seven years ahead of schedule; Ford has announced that it will only produce electric cars in Europe from 2030; and despite all the pressure from President Trump in favour of fossil fuels, more coal-fired power stations have closed under his presidency than under his predecessor’s; and many others, unexpectedly. Thus, a NASA technology used to map the sky is proving to be just as effective in helping to better protect the largest cetaceans.
Other equally important changes in mentalities have appeared: Many more people than ever before have become aware of the need to spend much more money on health, hygiene, research, education, food, digital, clean energies, which form what I call “the economy of life” and which were largely abandoned in favour of other sectors such as fashion, plastics, fossil fuels, aviation and all vehicles using fossil fuels.
Many people have also understood that the world is one; and that its main problems cannot be solved by closing borders or by trying to lock themselves into an illusory industrial sovereignty or identity: almost no country (except China and Russia, under conditions that have yet to be evaluated) could have had access on its own to vaccines and other medical equipment produced in parts of the world; and the interdependence of the various parts of the world became evident when a hygiene problem in a wholesale market in a large Chinese city and a lack of control in a research laboratory in the same city had global consequences. That the lack of vaccines in Africa or Latin America may bring new variants of this virus back to Europe and the United States, from which the available vaccines would not protect us.
Many have finally realised, during this crisis, that it is better to prepare well in advance for the challenges of the future. That this pandemic would have been better treated if we had been prepared, as in South Korea, or if we had anticipated in the orders of vaccines, as in Israel. Like this pandemic, other threats are now perfectly predictable, and many more people understand that they would have to be dealt with in advance; in particular those, terribly urgent, of the climate, and therefore of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; for example, the recent tragedy in Texas shows once again what unpreparedness in the management of energy infrastructures leads to.
In a way, a very positive post-covid world is taking shape: more lucid, more supportive, more open, better prepared to face the challenges of the future in advance; more confident in what science and technology can bring. A world of reason and altruism. A world of rational altruism.
However, the worst is still possible: Countries can still erect countless barricades as an illusory protection against the world’s challenges; and peoples can decide, once the pandemic is over, to return to the worst mistakes and waste of the past.
To avoid it, we must never lose sight of what is positive that happens every day; and we must constantly try to put these material advances and new ideas at the service of the most fragile of today and tomorrow. If we don’t lose sight of this, this horrible nightmare, from which we are not yet awake, will not have been totally useless.