“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon”
Mizuta Misallied, 17th Century Japanese poet and samurai
Our barns have burned down and yet there is opportunity and promise ahead. We didn’t plan or expect for the COVID-19 crisis to be as damaging as it has been. But here we are with sickness, medical shortages, deaths, significant economic impact, and yet opportunity. As anxious as we are, we are already making progress because this crisis has pushed us like we have never been pushed before in our lifetime.
Let’s start with better air quality around the world, an unintended positive consequence of the crisis. It is predicted that thousands of people have been saved from prematurely dying because nitrogen dioxide has been significantly reduced during the last 6 to 8 weeks of sheltering at home. Satellite imaging from ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite has revealed significant pollution reduction, especially in Asia, Europe and the West Coast of the US. Is this more momentum for the low-carbon economy? It can be.
We are conservatively 5 years ahead in successfully navigating distance learning and working from home than if this crisis had never happened. Robust corporate training and regular staff meetings are taking place on Zoom. College students are connecting to on-line classrooms. Virtual tutoring is available for students of all ages and advancing them in areas where they previously struggled. We have created a better environment for education with a hybrid of teachers, parents, family, and online tutors.
We can visit the Cincinnati Zoo at 3pm every day or do a virtual tour of the Louvre. Google is offering 2500 museums and galleries for free virtual tours and displays of their art. Our world has opened up. Social distancing has paradoxically brought us together. We reach out more. We show concern, vulnerability, and care for employees, clients, and neighbors in ways we didn’t before.
We won’t need to go back to 5 days of commuting to the office. There is considerable potential now to change working practices and lifestyle because we have seen the benefit. That alone will create a healthier, more efficient, less stressed work force with more time on either end of the work day. Working from home also brings the emotional health benefits of being with our pets.
New businesses are emerging. In fact, many of today’s most prominent businesses were started during the financial crisis of 2009. That’s when WhatsAPP, AirBnB, Venmo, and Instagram were founded. It’s when Apple created the App Store and Tesla released it’s first car, the completely electric Roadster.
There will be expanded opportunity in 2020 and beyond in medicine, science, energy, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, education, non-profits, and every other sector. This crisis has brought on new thinking and perspectives. This doesn’t diminish the agonizing loss of life, but it gives us hope that we can prevent this from happening again.
One of the shifts has been who our heroes are now. While celebrities and sports stars have reached into their wallets and are putting on benefit concerts, they are doing it to support our true heroes – the brave and selfless first responders, doctors, nurses, and medical teams all over the world.
There are also business leaders and business owners who are burning the candle at both ends, taking no salary and reshaping their businesses with enormous effort and creativity to keep their employees working, customers supplied, and their businesses afloat.
So, let’s stay tuned and be a part of the creativity and innovation in all areas of life. Let’s continue the generosity of spirit we are seeing everywhere. We are one world. If we are going to survive and thrive, we need to look out for each other now and in the future. Then we can see the moon together. It’s stunning. And surprisingly, it’s been there all along.