Learning from the Pandemic
Having a pandemic sweeping over the globe is tragic for sure. But at least some good can come from this. Maybe this major event will send us to moving in the right direction-- away from an even greater threat, climate change.
Many of the measures that are being put into play to keep us safe, could also help us to reduce our impact on the planet. These are all around reducing emissions from unnecessary travel. Here are some examples:
Many people have questioned (perhaps while being stuck in traffic the 5th time in a week) why so many jobs that require no more than the use of a computer and a phone, can’t be done from home. Obviously, they can but employers simply seem to not trust their employees to not go into hibernation mode when lounging on their couch in their PJs. As if treating any self-respecting adult as a naughty schoolchild who needs the teacher pacing around the room to keep them under control is motivating.
Many businesses may have thought of trying this but found starting the process too daunting. Well, they got thrown into the deep end. Perhaps now, that it was forced upon them, they will see their business can run just as efficiently, if not more so, this way. I imagine that the many people that have added a couple of hours to their day from not having to commute will be motivated to work harder during those remaining 8 hours. Although, I do worry this won’t be the most perfect test run as many employees are stuck home with small children. Hopefully, they will factor this in when considering long-term feasibility.
Similar to working remotely, many University classes could be run just as well online. I recently had the opportunity to study again and took a combination of online and in-person classes. I found the online classes just as useful. Obviously there are exceptions, for example, if you are studying something that requires lab work.
Most classes are so large that the student never interacts with the professor, making watching a lecture online no different. In fact, it even allows flexibility for students that have other responsibilities to do courses in their own time. Some say that students will be more distracted at home. Well I can tell you, I noticed almost every student with a computer or phone to be on social media during class, so how is this any different? Even small interactive classes can usually be replaced with video conferencing software.
Flying for business:
Just as with unnecessary commuting to and from work, many people fly both domestically and internationally due to their jobs. Academics are expected to attend several conferences per year while those in business are expected to meet with partners and investors in person. What if that expectation was gone? What if we all just agreed that, hey, teleconferences work great, let’s do that.
The decrease in non-essential flying due to Covid could act as a test run just like working from home. But also, maybe, if it wasn’t enough that flying people all over the globe costs a lot of money, takes a lot of time, and is absolutely terrible for the planet, that the added fact that it is the main reason Covid spread so far so fast, will be the tipping point to convince people to stop.
Flying for pleasure:
When people manage to have a few extra thousand sitting around in their bank accounts, what better way to stop that money burning a hole than to take a holiday. It’s a surefire way to get rid of that money quickly without cluttering up your house. And the farther away from home, the better, right? Well, that money could do a lot more if you stayed more local. I think that most people are missing out on all their city, or region, has to offer because they think the best is far away. Even after 10 years in my small country of NZ, I still have so much left to explore, which is why I opt for road trips. Not only do I avoid the stress of working my way through airports, but I also save tons of money. I get to travel with all the essentials my little car will allow including my faithful furry companion.
Most travel junkies will argue that there is no alternative to taking an international trip. That you need to see different cultures and lands to get the most of life. That sustainable tourism, like VR experiences of foreign lands, is not the same as being there. While this may ring true for some, perhaps this outbreak will have people reconsidering if it really and truly is worth the cost, not only to themselves but the planet and humanity.
In just this short time of people travelling by car and plane less, air quality has seen remarkable improvements in places like Venice and China. This should help people to see that a solution is possible. We live in a great time where we don’t need to, and shouldn’t, be travelling the amount we do. The size of our population is not only harmful to the earth but allows disease to spread too easily. We must adapt the way we do things.
While there are still a lot of sources of climate change that need to be addressed, this is a terrific start. When something as awful and a pandemic occurs, we need to deal with the issue swiftly and efficiently, but also the results can guide us forward long-term solutions. Let’s push to keep some of the changes put into place due to the virus, and keep the momentum going to having cleaner air and slowing down this runaway train we are on.