By Vaila Bhaumick

I wonder what the generation born during the pandemic will be called. Gen-COVID? Pandemicals? Children of the Quarantine? I also wonder what overriding influential factor will define the Coronavirus generation.

Just as the 9/11 attacks, the rapid rise of technology, and economic recession have heavily influenced Millennials, what comes after this pandemic will impact our children and grandchildren. So we should get it right. What can we do to make the world a better place post-COVID-19?

Amidst the maelstrom of virus-related information out there, it is hard to decipher what it all means long-term. Thankfully, there have been some encouraging stories helping guide us in the right direction. Tales of communities caring for each other, families reconnecting, and animals reclaiming space denied to them for years. Is it realistic to think that this can all continue in our ‘new normal’?

Start With A Better Self

The first step is changing yourself. If we can be accountable to ourselves individually, we have far more chance of breaking old patterns collectively. Luckily, most of us have time at the moment to self reflect. Dig deep, observe our own behaviour and thought patterns, and ask ourselves what our role is in a new, better world.

We should look at how we can change our habits and our impact on the world. This won’t be easy. We are used to having all the products we THINK we need, delivered to our door. We are now growing and buying food locally and making face masks and scrubs—so why not clothes too? We don’t need to consume all the time to be happy. 

Sadly, I don’t think it’s as easy as flicking a switch. As with everything in life, there are grey areas…

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

‘Hear no evil see no evil speak no evil’—the old proverb sums up what some of us have been doing until now. ‘Be positive’, has been the war cry of many, as they turn a blind eye. But, isn’t it too simplistic to look at things as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’; ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Surely we have to acknowledge all aspects of an issue, before deciding the best course of action.

Let me give you an example. Many of us buy clothes that are manufactured in developing countries for below poverty-line wages. If we all stop doing that tomorrow, that country’s GDP falls, unemployment skyrockets, and families go hungry. We must also consider that the retailers employ hundreds of thousands of people in their shops and low prices allow low-income families to clothe their children. Individual action sometimes cannot solve the problem—we need a ‘bigger picture’ approach. And this is why the pandemic is such a historic event—we can suddenly see the cracks in the system.

Environmental Conundrums

The environmental impacts are no different. Many are calling them a ‘silver lining’, thinking only of the temporary fall in emissions. However, the UN warns it is far from being that simple. Medical and biohazardous waste is set to increase as a result of the pandemic. Plus, the slowdown in fossil fuel usage would have to be extended for it to alter emissions in an impactful way.

Lockdown measures are not a quick fix for climate change. We must examine how we are living our lives, remain aware and take longer-term action. Use COVID-19 as a reminder to think before you buy, drive, travel, or eat, and slowly we can change our future impact. The more we protect the wild parts of our planet, and our own immune systems, the more chance we have of surviving as a species.

Economic Effects

The pandemic is turning our monetary system on its head. It is difficult to predict what will happen, but the implications for our supply chains are massive. Did you know that about 80% of pharmaceutical drugs used in the US come from China and India? What this statistic shows is that perhaps it’s time for a big rethink on where our consumables come from.

But the example of the retail sector keeps spinning in my head. How do we ensure that people can still work to survive? I actually don’t know the answer to this, but it’s time we start to question and stop ignoring the problems. Stare down the supply chain, and ask ‘is there slavery? Is there animal cruelty? Is there irreparable environmental damage?’ And if so, it’s time to find a new paradigm. If enough of us do it, the system will change, but we must do it together.

The pandemic is a wake-up call. No matter who you believe is to blame, it’s somehow arbitrary to point the finger. We may never know all the facts. Instead, we should focus on our creativity, our ability to build things from the ground up, and most of all, stand with integrity to help the vulnerable people, animals and wildlife on this planet. Then, maybe, we will have a brighter Post-COVID-19 future.