What the pre-COVID world looked like
Amidst the present crisis there is a great desire amongst many to return to normal as quickly as possible, and understandably so. However we should pause and take the time to reflect on what that world looked like and if we really should be aspiring to return to business as usual.
A pre-coronavirus world was a world of inequality where, according to UNICEF, 22,000 children died each day due to poverty, while 26 individuals owned as much wealth as half the world’s population, as reported by Oxfam in 2019. In Canada, the story is not much better, with 87 families owning the same wealth as 12 million Canadians. In a 2020 report, Campaign 2000, a non-partisan network of organizations focused on ending childhood and family poverty, found that one in five children live in poverty in Canada. A pre-coronavirus world included seven million premature deaths per year due to air pollution, and “around 93 per cent of the world’s children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathing air so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk," according to the World Health Organization in 2018.
A pre-coronavirus world saw regular headlines like, “Humans are speeding extinction and altering the natural world at an unprecedented pace” and increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists about a world dangerously close to climate tipping points and irreversible climate catastrophe. In a pre-coronavirus world driven by greed and planetary destruction, it should come as no surprise that, according to WHO in 2019, globally 450 million people suffered mental health disorders and mental illness affected 6.7 million Canadians, as reported by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
There will be some, most notably an establishment media dominated by rich owners, along with the majority of our politicians that serve corporate power, who will defend the system of capitalism/neoliberalism/the free market/globalisation, etc., because for them the above is a small price to pay for the “benefits of human progress” — like colonialism, where some gained, – notably powerful european nation states – while millions suffered and were made to pay the price for “progress.” There are few today who would argue that the theft of land, destruction of cultures, and the trade in human beings was a price worth paying for the returns it gave us. These atrocities remain unredressed. Sadly there will be no epiphany or awakening amongst our ruling elites. In fact, the evidence suggests that in their eyes a return to business as usual need not wait. The sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a nation with a horrific human rights record that continues to hold public beheadings and crucifixions, is just one example. Designating The Site C dam, LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink pipeline projects as essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the middle of a climate crisis, is another stark example of business as usual.
We are at a crossroads in history, paralysed by a global pandemic and wondering what a post-coronavirus world might look like. Will we continue to plunder our world and exploit our fellow humans in the name of profits? There is no better time to reimagine and rethink our relationship with the natural world and our global community. To that end, there is no better time to challenge the status quo, demand a just transition and join the movement to fight for a better world.