Even if we finally have a deluge of vaccines in Europe and the rest of the world one day soon; even if we reopen 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, nothing that it implies will be behind us:
Firstly, because we will have to deal with all the tragedies, all the after-effects, all the bankruptcies, all the job losses, all the wasted studies, all the missed vocations, all the projects that were destroyed during these almost two years.
Then, 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 make up our minds to 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 we should have done a year ago to prepare our society to live as well as possible in a world of multiple pandemics: the reorganisation of places of study and work, so that they are structurally adapted to these periods, which we could experience periodically.
Finally, we will have to prepare for all 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, the extinction of countless species, and all the political unrest that will ensue. These threats are of an entirely different nature to a pandemic, and will cause far more irreversible damage.
To fail to prepare is to expect to relive globally the improvisations, mistakes, trial and error, shortages, that we are experiencing now. On a much larger scale. And without a solution, because we will not be able to cool the planet, nor revive extinct species, nor hope that a vaccine will protect us from a lack of water or air pollution. Not to prepare for it is to increase the likelihood of wars between nations or social groups, in a world that is becoming unlivable.
Preparing for it now means drawing the real lessons from the current pandemic; it means 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 means of transport that use them, plastics, chemicals, textile industries); and it means giving absolute priority to the other sectors that determine the response to these threats: It means giving absolute priority to the other sectors that condition the response to 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 “life economy”, today account for no more than half of the output of any country in the world; in twenty years’ time, it should account for two-thirds.
This will require an immense reconversion; a new vision of the world, turned towards future generations; new values, more altruistic, new priorities, less futile. A new way of doing politics.
We will not get a second chance. If we don’t 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 to really get serious? I don’t know.
I only know that if they don’t, one day, in a century or less, there won’t even be any future generations to curse them.