COVID-19 has presented us with a novel idea of a flat world. One that repels the rat race. A world that has rubbished economic globalization, redirected supply chains and reduced supply lines. Spooked from lushness, we fall into the inferno of hermetic existence. Elizabeth II, Queen of England, reminded persons of all faiths, and those of none, that self-isolating is an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect in prayer or meditation.
The rat race of materialism and alienation once steered Nietzsche to declare that, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” It is not, that God has passed away; but that the living waters do not flow inside minarets and monasteries. COVID-19 has forced us to join, the communion of the saints, a cloud of witnesses, and to drink from the thirsty, because rivers of living water flow from them. God is no longer detained in prayer halls, those sepulchres and tombs in which he was once kept.
Now, all we need each night, is a crisp white bedsheet. Some camphor balls and a candle. A loaf of bread we baked ourselves. Private communion. Even those whose hands are always above the outstretched heavenly empty palms of the ill-fated, grasp the idea that needing ‘more’ is unbelievable. COVID-19 has disturbed the maze. The rat race is replaced by a flat basic struggle for bare life. Now, we are quite content with bare bones. In the labyrinth, workers knotted with bureaucratic red tape, achieve very little either cooperatively or alone.
Minshall probed this exhausting, self-defeating struggle. In 1987, a Minshallesque army of rodents invaded Port of Spain. His “Rat Race” mirrored the pessimism of the people who had become disillusioned by politics and currency devaluation. Oddly, 2020 is the Year of the Rat and it kick started with face masks soaring off shelves. It is already apparent that in the Year of the Rat, radical events will require far-reaching measures. There is nowhere to hide anymore. The calls will only get louder and stronger.
While the spotlight is on COVID-19 today, other disruptions loom and pilots will become “de rigueur”. Like lab rats, we will experiment, moving the cheese using pilots, polices, regulations and legislation towards an eco-civilisation and a circular economy. Future economic planning will be based on ecological margins, not municipal boundaries. They will offer a firm foundation for ecological compensation, environmental risk analysis, environmental rights trading, and ecological redline delineation, since poor environmental conditions provide a fertile field for future infections. Slum dwellers and even some cities are literally surrounded by garbage.
Zero Waste City pilots will lead to more effective measures to alleviate urban waste pressure. Already we are witnessing the rise of circular funds that are investing in companies that consider the full life cycle of materials, redesigning products and operations to encourage greater reuse and recycling. A hideous truth is that fast-fashion is an industry that accounts for more emissions than international flights and shipping combined. It is the “new coal”. The circular economy, has been the mantra for some time now, but in a post-COVID-19 world, countries will move the cheese in favour of circularity. Next- is the end of wastefulness and the rise of green clouds.
The West Indies will need a strategy, strong enough to decouple CARICOM’s economic growth from natural resource use, because the future competitiveness of the block, depends on it. The package will require, hard targets for managing physical resources across the CSME, but with an enabling framework of taxation and product policies that encourage innovation to deliver new, more sustainable business practices.
CARICOM will need to substantially widen its approach to this complex dossier in order to grasp opportunities of circularity. Avoiding one-size-fits-all solutions, and with close involvement of all stakeholders including businesses, consumers, public authorities, research and academia, CARICOM must incentivize sovereign states in the block to embed circularity in different processes.
The pandemic of COVID-19 has established that governments have the ability and tenacity to take drastic measures to mitigate an existential threat, as well as people’s ability, to adapt to new restricted lifestyles imposed by these measures. A second signal is that the timing of the enactment of measures is crucial for their effectiveness in saving lives. A third memorandum is that the response to COVID-19 came from within national states.
In a post COVID-19 world, Amsterdam is considering if it wishes to store merchandises produced in factories using child labour. The port is the world’s largest importer of cocoa beans, from West Africa, where labour is habitually exploitative. As an independent company it can reject harvests from these estates. The port is also revisiting its dependency on fossil fuels. COVID-19 is propelling Amsterdam to reject notions of “growth” and embrace instead the idea of “thriving”. The Raworth donut economic model being used by municipal authorities is a heuristic that sets out the bare minimum of sanitation, food, water, housing, energy, education, gender equality, healthcare, income and political voice that each citizen must experience if they are to lead a good life. Anyone not experiencing such minimum standards is living inside the doughnut’s hole.