Even if, one day in the near future, we finally have a deluge of vaccines in Europe and the rest of the world; even if we reopen the theatres, cinemas, hotels and restaurants this summer; even if the autumn could be cheerful; and even if many people will be able to say, at the beginning of next winter, that this pandemic is nothing but a bad memory, the implications of this pandemic will not be behind us:
Firstly, because we will have to deal with all the tragedies, aftershocks, bankruptcies, job losses, studies that were ruined, missed vocations, and projects that were destroyed during these almost two years.
Furthermore, because we will have to prepare for the probable emergence of new variants resistant to the current vaccines, and resist the despair that could follow the need for new lockdowns, while waiting to produce billions of doses of new vaccines at very high speed, and organise worldwide vaccination campaigns; we will have to accept that we will have to do this every year, for decades to come; for this disease and no doubt for many others. We will then have to decide to finally do everything that we should have done a year ago to prepare our society to live as well as possible in a world faced with multiple pandemics: by reorganizing study and work spaces, so that they are structurally adapted to these types of periods, which we could experience periodically.
Finally, we will have to prepare to face the other threats, which are as neglected today as this pandemic was, and just as perfectly predictable: water shortages, global warming, soil aridity, insect invasions, extinction of countless species, and the political unrests that typically follow. These threats are of an entirely different nature than a pandemic, and will cause far more irreversible damage.
Failing to prepare means that we can expect to relive on a global scale the improvisations, mistakes, trials and error, shortages, that we are experiencing now. But on a much larger scale. And without a solution, because we will not be able to cool the planet, or revive extinct species, or hope that a vaccine will protect us from water shortages or air pollution. Failing to prepare for means that we can expect an increase the likelihood of wars between nations or social groups, in a world that is becoming unliveable.
Preparing for it now means that we are able to learn the real lessons from the current pandemic; it also requires having the courage to adopt a wartime economy to massively reduce all economic activities that increase the probability of these disasters (fossil fuels and the transportation systems that use them, plastics, chemicals, textile industries); and it requires giving absolute priority to the other sectors that determine the response to these threats: It means giving absolute priority to the other sectors that are determinative to the response against these threats (e.g. medical industries, hospitals, training of doctors, research, education, hygiene, food, sustainable agriculture, digital, distribution, clean energy, clean water, security, culture, democracy, non-speculative finance and insurance, sustainable housing). All these sectors, which form what I call the “economy of life,” account for no more than half of the output of any country in the world today; in twenty years’ time, the economy of life should account for two-thirds of the output.
This will require an immense reconversion; a new vision of the world, turned toward future generations; new values, more altruism, new priorities, less futility. A new way of doing politics.
We will not get a second chance. If we do not get serious as soon as possible, we will regret this pandemic as one of our last happy moments.
Will we have the courage to understand this? Will politicians, intellectuals, business leaders, trade unionists have the courage to tell the truth and really get serious? I do not know.
I only know that if they do not get serious, one day, in a century or less, there will not even be any future generations to curse them for their failure.