We Don’t Have To Choose Between Economic Prosperity And Life Itself
A sustainable world requires a lot of jobs, hearts and minds
How we get things done
With polarization taking front and center stage, it is easy to understand why people choose sides. Conflict and drama sell stories, but they seldom tell the full human story of how we get things done.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic does not in and of itself demand that we choose between public safety and good jobs.
Re-opening the economy is not as important as human life. However, finding ways to slowly, cautiously, and by baby steps re-open toward a new, sustainable, economy is going to take ingenuity, grit, determination, courage, and many, many, human hands working with many, many human minds.
Those workers will need other workers to see that job sites are safe.
A false choice
Currently many pundits are warning that freedom is just as important as life. I think this is a false dichotomy.
We tend, as human beings, to automatically make things binary. Yet, a choice between prosperity and life itself is a stark choice that is not as black and white and the naysayers would have you believe.
Creativity, rather, using outside the box thinking, and non-binary ideas, is called for in this new world. We may work from home, or have new shopping and dining configurations. We may learn to produce food in less dangerous and wasteful ways.
Whatever you may think about the “Green New Deal” as it is offered, it models itself upon the economic recovery after the Great Depression. There were conservation jobs, infrastructure jobs, education and immersion in technology jobs.
We not only still need all those things; we need them more than ever before in the history of the world. Tweaking the proposed Green New Deal, to include jobs that also seek to mitigate the worst effects of coming pandemics, would only add more minds and more jobs to the mix.
In the coming efforts for public health and safety, the industries of agriculture, medicine, surveillance, information exchange, data collection — almost any industry you can think of — are going to be ramped up, and surging forward.
As to the war effort part of prosperity, we have another kind of war, a war on pandemic and climate catastrophe that requires not just a whole new host of careers, but the active participation of billions of people across the globe innovating, building, creating, distributing and re-shaping a tired, and worn world, into a sustainable and thriving one.
Experts disagree, as to just how hot and degraded life will become. Climate models predict Earth will continue a warming trend even if we apply ourselves to every aspect of fighting against the worst outcomes. But what they all agree upon is that to do nothing is the worst choice imaginable.
Just this morning, the Guardian reported a UK study that projects “insufferable heat” for more than one billion people in less than fifty years.
Top world experts also agree that changing our ways of invading nature is critically important to avoid pandemics. The millions of food industries themselves are due a total overhaul that will necessitate millions of new jobs in everything from in-home gardening to lab-produced meat.
We can choose to “All be in this together”
At this moment in history, it would be a terrible tragedy if people choose to pit one “side” against another.
There are people who are interested in power and money, and who can only see that capitalism must be rapacious to work. But there are many other people, who just by virtue of their values, respect for science and technology, and self-interest in healthy business trends, see human potential as central to human success.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and more worryingly, the ones yet to be unleashed upon the globe, have given us lessons in cooperation and collaboration that we need to heed.
One is that you can only flatten the curve of increased cases of coronavirus infection by having a public that knows and appreciates the value of sacrifice.
Sacrifice, when it is evenly shared, team builds strength and confidence, two things that are very basic to human ability and stability.
Another thing that this pandemic has revealed is humility.
We have been laid low by a virus so tiny that it is invisible. We can learn from this that our efforts to control nature not only are useless, they are sometimes counter-productive. With humility before the vast powers of nature — Cyclones, famines, pandemics, fires and floods — we can see that only with each other working for the common good can we manage a world this big and an order this tall.
Can we manage overcrowded cities?
In many places around the globe, our species has gone from an agrarian one, to a city dwelling one. But now we must factor in health risks.
The truth is we should factor in the millions of deaths each year caused by air pollution alone, but we got careless. Now we are paying more attention because a global pandemic has shown that public health, and our public health safety net requires new industry and attention.
Safer cities outfitted with ways to clean the air and water, and grow food at the same time are not some outrageous science fiction. They are on the minds of many who design and plan. The same is true for transportation, battery storage, smart grids, safe thorium reactors, and so much more.
An opportunity like no other in history
Winston Churchill said that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. He also said “That I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
He may as well have been talking about donating blood plasma during a pandemic. Because it is those people who have recovered from COVID-19, and have the promise of immunity through their naturally made antibodies, that are proving they are interested in making every contribution that they can in our current situation.
The least the rest of us can do is offer our toil, tears, and sweat. Our intellectual toil, and sharing of knowledge is crucial.
People, workers from cleaners to clerks, are proving their value and their desire to work. People want to work for a common good.
Giving of themselves is not what most people fear doing, but what they want to do.
In the art of human existence, people really do want to make a difference, and we have many differences that need to be made.