Just as Australia was not alarmingly prepared for the recent bush fires and drought, even if they had happened repeatedly in our history, the world was not prepared for the coronavirus, even if ‘There had been many risk warnings over many years.
Unfortunately, governments and political authorities seem unable to accept scientific and other evidence and fail to heed clear warnings and predictions. They are also generally reluctant to think longer term and strategically to plan how to avoid and / or manage a series of catastrophic risks that increase and threaten our standard of living and lifestyle – and, ultimately, survival. human.
Since the mid-twentieth century, humans have increasingly – albeit involuntarily – threatened to significantly harm themselves and the planet, favoring economic and demographic growth, but largely ignoring its consequences social, political and environmental.
These include the depletion of scarce resources, climate change, waste, disease and diminished resilience. This has been compounded by short-sighted poor governance which has disadvantaged some countries and generations and has fostered unnecessary military and economic competition.
But who would have thought that in just six to eight weeks, the world could change so dramatically. In response to Covid-19, people, businesses, and politicians accepted a radical change from the norm that would have been unthinkable before. We don’t fly, we don’t go to work often – we even grow vegetables and bread.
We agree to adopt behaviors of social distancing and keeping at home – which are certainly imposed on us – for the benefit of the whole community, even if they very probably inhibit our individual self.
Our political leaders throw ideology to the wind – and come up with policies and fixes that put people before politics. This is an inspiring indication that the global community can adopt essential change.
Emerging risks are now varied, global, complex and catastrophic. Solutions must be national, globally collaborative and multidisciplinary.
It is very important to recognize the risks, their magnitude, their urgency and their connection, and to seize the opportunities that will arise by tackling them successfully.
The recently created Commission for the Human Future has identified 10 key catastrophic risks: an emerging natural resource crisis; ecosystem collapse; excessive population growth; global warming; global pollution; food and water insecurity; nuclear war; pandemics; new technologies; and the failures of global governance to understand these risks and respond proactively. How we can deal with these risks is described in our new report, released today.
Although these threats are grim and the world is absolutely unprepared, there is real hope for effective responses.
Obviously, each nation will want to face these risks in its own situation. But, as these risks do not recognize national borders, countries must also work collaboratively, to change behaviors and practices by adapting to new circumstances and by recognizing and exploiting new opportunities.
When developing political solutions, it is imperative that they be based on scientific evidence and accepted evidence. This essential process should see the development of a “new science” – the science of human survival and well-being.
Given the systemic failure of governments around the world to anticipate and respond to these great risks, and a consequent decline in public confidence and disdain for truth, transparency and accountability in politics and some media, we believe that there is an urgent need for far-reaching policy reform, including new ways to fight corruption through vested interests and the influence they exert on governments.
However, the committee recognizes in particular that the solutions to these great risks depend not only on government policy and business activity, but also on the actions of billions of people in their daily lives.
Much of our current behavior, what we do and how we do it, must change if civilization is to survive and prosper.
This means that many existing systems and practices that we take for granted – our economic system, our food system, our energy system, our transportation system, our production and waste systems, our governance systems, our community life and our relationship to the natural Earth systems – all must undergo a thorough review and reform.
The objective of the commission is to share the main ideas and insights from around the world on what society as a whole can do to build a better and safer future – and how we can each play our part to limit and overcome these risks. .
We must give everyone – young and old, women and men, poor or wealthy – the means to build this secure and sustainable human future.
Covid-19 and the health, medical, economic and other responses it generated have occurred faster and more concretely than anyone had imagined. Most would never have considered the restrictions on personal freedom and movement to contain the infection, or the extent to which savings should be “crushed” to cushion these responses. But the world has mostly accepted and is adapting to these needs.
To learn from this experience, we must all become proactive, rather than reactive, anticipate and prepare to face global risks, and begin to develop policy responses that will maximize the benefits of the opportunities that arise.
The only limit to our thinking should be the extent of our overall imagination.
- Read the commission’s new report on how humanity can cope with the increasing global risks to its survival, Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century, at www.humansforsurvival.org.