After the crisis: two possible futures

News | Posted on Thursday 1 October 2020

COVID-19 is a horrible global crisis. Yet, like previous horrible global crises, including WWI and WWII, it also presents an opportunity and an obligation to rebuild our global society to adapt to changing conditions.

The question is: what kind of change trajectory do we want? One comparable to WWI’s vindictive Treaty of Versailles or one more akin to the post WWII reconstruction of Europe, Japan and the global economy.

The two postwar restructuring strategies were indeed very different from one another.

COVID-19 is a crisis similar in magnitude to the two 20th-century world wars, albeit with very different causes, implications, potential responses and resulting futures. The crisis has essentially shut down the global economy, is projected to kill hundreds of thousands, and is presenting us with similar decisions about how to recover and rebuild.

Do we try to restore the previous system as it was, like the Treaty of Versailles attempted to do, or do we rebuild in a better, more robust and resilient way, analogous to the positive, progressive agenda of the post WWII reconstruction? What would these two futures look like?

Making the transition to a just and sustainable wellbeing economy will require:

  1. a fundamental change of worldview to one that recognises that we live on a finite planet, and that sustainable wellbeing requires more than material consumption
  2. replacing the present goal of limitless growth with goals of material sufficiency, equitable distribution and sustainable human wellbeing
  3. a redesign of the world economy that preserves natural systems essential to life and wellbeing, and one that balances natural, social, human and built assets.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis may have a silver lining if it opens the door for the long overdue transition to a world focused on the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature – the world we all want.

Read the full paper in The Solutions Journal.

Contact us

Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity
lcab-enquiries@york.ac.uk

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Authors include LCAB Associate Director, Professor Kate Pickett, and Research Strategy Group members, Professor Ida Kubiszewski and Professor Robert Costanza.

Contact us

Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity
lcab-enquiries@york.ac.uk

Related links

Authors include LCAB Associate Director, Professor Kate Pickett, and Research Strategy Group members, Professor Ida Kubiszewski and Professor Robert Costanza.