5 ways in which COVID-19 can change our societies for the better

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Ever since COVID-19 arrived, we’ve had to find and adjust to new ways of living, working and simply existing. 

The virus threatens both the lives and livelihoods of millions. Businesses and individuals need to find new ways to cope with the restrictions that have been put in place to control the virus.

However, there are some positive side effects that are emerging due to the current restrictions that we can use to make our future world a better place. Of course, we would all surely choose going back to the way things were before the virus ever arrived, but right now we have to play the hand we were dealt—and try to make the most of it. 

As Yuval Noah Harari puts in this Financial Times blog post, “Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive—but we will inhabit a different world.”

Here’s a list of fundamental ways in which the coronavirus has affected, and will continue to affect, our everyday lives and environment, and how we can learn to make the most of these new ways of living in the future. 


1. Small things have started to matter 🌱

Those of us who are practicing social distancing are forced to reconnect with ourselves, and also find a new common ground with others: we’re all in this together.

Many of us are locked inside, but those of us who can still go outside often may find ourselves more connected to nature. And once cities are no longer in lockdown, maybe we’ll learn to appreciate the outdoors even more. 

All of us are also more appreciative of nurses, doctors, other medical staff, grocery store staff, first responders, police officers, and all others who are risking their lives battling on the front lines. 

Hopefully, these things will count also when the pandemic is over. 


2. A rise in community spirit 🤗

Something that is instantly noticeable throughout the world is a rise in community spirit. And it’s not only things like rooftop aerobics, but people are also sharing their best tips for mental health and coping with the isolation and restrictions. 

While we’re all in the same boat, people can experience the situation in different ways, and the experience is unique for all of us. So, while others want to use the quarantine days to achieve a goal they didn’t have time to reach before, some of us need the time to simply adjust and cope with the difficult situation.

However, it seems that “every man for himself” is forgotten: people are really helping each other out. A nice example of this is the new services people are coming up with to help the elderly and others at risk

Many businesses are voluntarily helping customers and each other in the midst of the crisis. Some businesses are also offering free trials of their products, and people are paying attention to supporting their local businesses

People are also calling each other increasingly. For example, video conferencing tool Zoom saw a 191% increase in unique users, and a 222% increase in total logins within one month. 

All these things are something we should not forget even in more carefree times.

 

3. Pollution is down—and we should keep it that way 📉 

According to this BBC article, the levels of pollution in New York are down by almost 50% due to coronavirus-related restrictions. Simultaneously, in China, coal use has decreased dramatically since the end of 2019. 

However, alongside the falling carbon emissions we’ve seen a dramatic tumble in stock markets, and people are quickly losing their jobs and livelihoods. 

So, while it’s actually really nice that people in Delhi can finally see the sky, people losing their jobs before we were able to see past the wall of pollution was not what we meant with a “sustainable, eco-friendly” world. 

Maybe, however, we now realize that pollution is something that can be controlled, and seeing such dramatic results after pollution levels have dropped may help us all aim to build a less polluted world for the future. 

We all remember the financial crash of 2008. Back then, there was a short dip in emissions, but it appears that the global crisis didn’t have an impact on the long-term increase of greenhouse gases

Actually, the amount of man-made carbon dioxide was record-high in 2010. And, since then, it’s only been increasing. So, while the emissions may have dropped for a little while due to COVID-19, all evidence suggests that we’ll pick up right where we left off after the global pandemic has passed. 

This is, however, something that doesn’t have to be that way. Businesses have many options to cut down on their negative environmental impact, including: harnessing renewable energy sources, moving toward zero waste, and offsetting their carbon emissions. 


4. Focus on building more future-proof societies 🏭

As we have quickly noticed during the pandemic, some of our structures are not prepared for this type of disaster. 

Our healthcare systems were not designed for quick, global, and unexpected surges. 

We, as people, weren’t prepared for a situation in which all face-to-face contact is restricted, and we can’t see each other at all. Our economy wasn’t built to endure situations where most of buying and selling suddenly halts. 

One thing we’ll learn from this pandemic is that in the future, societies have to be built more sustainably, and we need to be more mindful of different scenarios in the long run.  

We could learn to think in terms of entire, functioning systems instead of disconnected sub-systems: for example, providing more funding for research to ensure the future-proofing of our healthcare and crisis systems. This funding has been consistently and constantly cut all over the world, for decades now. 

Similarly to us all working together to come up with new solutions to keep our societies running despite the coronavirus-related restrictions, we should continue to work together in order to innovate new ways of proofing our systems and structures for the future. 

5. Getting ready for other environmental changes 🌎

COVID-19 might not be something we can directly compare to natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis, but we should be equally ready for both in the future. Whether we like the idea or not, climate change is real. 

For example when talking about the effects of global warming, some predictions include increases in the amounts of heat waves, droughts and floods around the world. Hurricanes will become more frequent and stronger. Ice will melt and sea levels will continue to rise. 

The changing climate will eventually result in some regions of the world becoming uninhabitable. The amount of climate migrants fleeing their homes could reach one billion by 2050. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, these things don’t always announce themselves until we’re already dealing with the consequences, and currently we are not adequately prepared for the effects of climate change

If we get ready for the future now, we’ll be prepared for whatever that comes our way. 


...but don’t forget that growing digitalization has its effects, too 

One effect of COVID-19 we will continue to see in the upcoming years is the growing use of the internet, and especially cloud services and SaaS. As mentioned above, we’ve already seen this with video conferencing platforms, and will continue to see it with other services in the years to come. 

In 2020, we’ve all been encouraged to do things remotely as much as we can, which in turn has resulted in internet and cloud use skyrocketing. With the acceleration of digitalization, we also see a rise in the related emissions. 

While it’s good that both individuals and businesses are finding new ways of working, the growing online traffic has a large carbon footprint. Data centers also produce electronic waste as a by-product of their activities, and according to this article, that’s around 70% of the toxic waste in the US.

If you want to know more about what kind of effects cloud storage and SaaS apps have on the environment, download our free e-book on the environmental effects of cloud use and SaaS. 


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