What's Covid Good For - Ecotrain's Question of the Week

Yesss, I'm finally back to answering this week's QOTW by @ecotrain. This time the prompt makes it so simple that it seems like it can be handled in five easy steps: Name Five Positive Consequences of Covid-19! Positive what? Can there be anything positive coming out of a pandemic? I'd say not only that there can, but that most of these consequences we're all aware of. It's just the typical case of the opposite side of the same coin. So let's see what they are:

Nature Gets a Momentary Breather

Yes, I'm sure you've heard about it: carbon emissions are down thanks to cancelled flights, restricted travel, and well... the overall economic slowdown. Now it may be debatable how much good that actually does, considering the scale of ongoing destruction that had been going on before the pandemic. No matter the slight dip in the levels of newly emitted carbon, the stuff that had been dumped into the air over the past decades is going to keep driving temperatures up. Also, the massive shift to disposable masks, gloves, visors, not to mention take-out containers has its own adverse affects on the natural environment. Still, without Covid we would have continued on the same road, only faster and harder, offering little more than the usual lip-service to the real issues of climate change and the mass extinction of species.

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A Quiet Moment for Human Minds

For those of us who live in busy, noisy cities, the lockdown has surely offered a bit of relief. Think about the flow of traffic pushing through crowded streets, with horn concerts, sirens, engines, music blaring, people shouting, pressing through the crowd, while selling things almost constantly... and then suddenly it all stops! You can even hear the crickets and the birds right in the middle of the city! And yes, while all this may be connected to other, not so positive consequences of bankrupt small businesses, lost jobs, and a crumbling economy all together, at least the noise stopped blaring. At least the crowd stopped pushing. At least we can hear our own thoughts again.

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Open Doors for Technology

Going back to the last century, I remember the discussion of how home office would change not only the way we would work, but our entire way of living. The latest technology (as simple as mobile computers) would enable us to do our work from anywhere (as long as it was done on the computer, which was really the case for most of us). This would make large office complexes unnecessary, but also the highways leading there. Cutting down on commute would save us time, energy, and lots of expenses. So what happened since then? Not much! The technology was created, upgraded, and refined still. But the projected mass adoption did not happen. The changes that such a transition would require were just too extensive, both in infrastructure, as well as in human behavior. So it needed a type of push for companies, and entire business branches to completely adopt distance work at the mainstream level. If we ever get past Covid, these changes are likely going to remain.

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Strengthening the Resistance of our Species

As it is the case with each new (and old) pathogen, it is going to kill lots of people, but ultimately the survivors will adapt, evolve, and become resistant to it. Talking about this very normal, natural selection, which applies to every species and has been the driving force behind our evolution, usually doesn't help us make friends. Normally, it is seen as a barbarous way of looking at humans, who somehow are seen as above, or at least apart from the rest of nature. "But people will die!" they cry. But they always have, and always will. "But those are the weakest of us," they exclaim. Of course, they are the most susceptible, and they would have been the first ones to die from other causes. Maybe it would be better to help them enjoy their life while it lasts rather than trying to prolong it? Meanwhile our species is scratching at the eight-billion mark, while many others species are going extinct at record rates.

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A Civic Challenge

I left this positive consequence for last, since it may seem like the one that's the least positive. Still, I consider it to be the most important one, because it's not like the other four, where you can just lean back and count your blessings. This is a real-life challenge, involving great risks, requiring hard work, and well... it's generally unpleasant, more than anything. It has to do with our rights and freedoms, the state which is in place to manage these, and our individual willingness to put up with it (or not).

What strikes me as crazy is that precisely in those countries that have been such admirable examples of social-liberal democracies, like Europe or Canada, the enforcement of Covid measures has thrown basic human rights out of the window. If anything, this serves as a massive exclamation mark over the often ignored notion that we must keep re-conquering our own freedoms again and again. Use it or lose it, as they say. Being complacent with living in an enlightened liberal democracy and having a well working social / legal system is not a guarantee that you won't be taken to a camp tomorrow. Being vigilant in our senses, and consequent in our actions is always important. And now in times of Covid restrictions, more essential than ever. So if all goes well, we'll come out of this pandemic with more individual responsibility to rule ourselves, if we don't want others to do it.

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