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Punished or redeemed?

Published at: 20-03-2020

Posted on: March 20th, 2020 by RaduC No Comments

I recently posted an unorthodox talk with the chief-economist of the Romanian National Bank, Valentin Lazea, when we agreed that the world’s economic development model was no longer sustainable. As a result, economic theories need to radically change and focus on GDP per capita growth and not just GDP growth. Neither does human civilization stand a chance to save the planet as long as the rise of population is not quickly brought to a halt and our consumption behavior does not make a U-turn.

I was skeptically noting that history showed that behavior changes occurred only when economics encouraged them based on free market mechanism or intentional economic policies. Here we are, a few weeks later, and I have to admit that I had left out an extremely important behavior change trigger: a pandemic.

We see now the implications of the current pandemic act with mathematical precision in the very direction that humankind should go in order to save the planet, by changing our behavior. A change on such a scale and on such short notice would have been impossible to contemplate.

We did talk about cutting emissions by giving up most flight travel and engaging in virtual trips. This is exactly what happened. There is no travelling now, just “visiting” Earth from home.

We did talk about reducing polluting power plants. Satellite pictures are showing now a dramatic decrease in pollution generated by Chinese coal-fired CHP plants.

We did talk about lower consumption appetite.  Here we are forced into prioritizing the services and items that are really important to our life.

And tragically, yes, the global rise in population will be impacted as lives are lost to the pandemic.

What happens after the pandemic is gone will show whether we learned anything from what we just went through, or we will return to our self-destructive and completely unsustainable habits.

Will we give up the “mountain air” in Bucharest?

Will we give up the clear water and the swans in the Venetian canals?

Will we give up the over 200 million tons of CO2 that China did not emit during this time? This is the amount generated by the UK in half a year …

Will we give up working from home to go back to being stuck in our cars in traffic for hours?

The pandemic is an amazing chance to reboot our behavior.  The mind-boggling amounts to revive the economy should be invested based on different growth principles:  sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Someone, for some the Father, for others Gaea or Man may have created this virus to push us to rethink our priorities and how we grow as civilization.

We should use this opportunity to reinvent ourselves. The second opportunity might just prove to be too devastating.

Have a nice weekend.

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