New Deals and Shock Doctrines: who gets to define the impacts of the Corona-era?

Timely Insight #5 – Extended Edition

With the global outbreak of COVID-19, there’s a clear before and after. It’s easy to expect (and suspect) a certain return to normal upon completing self-quarantine or the easing of government restrictions. Even though we don’t know when, we assume that these events will eventually arrive. A shock of this scale, however, does not pass by without leaving behind some deep marks.

COVID-19 affects us on many levels: individuals, organizations, supply chains, economic systems, political trends – and maybe even worldviews. While some impacts (some of which we have covered in the past days) are becoming increasingly obvious, such as economic and air pollution plummets, what will remain to stay is yet to be seen. 

What we do know is that there are plenty of forces at play to get to define part of the answer to this question. In this Sunday Perspective, we try peering into the crystal ball, to offer you one understanding of how the playing field is being chalked up.

The coronavirus epidemic will lead to ‘a global recession of a magnitude that has not been experienced before’ but will eventually allow humanity to reset its values, (…) Suddenly the fashion shows look bizarre and out of place, the travel ads that enter our computer space seem invasive and ridiculous, the thought of future projects is vague and inconclusive: will it even matter? Every new day we question each system we have known since birth, and are obliged to consider their possible demise.
We will be in a position of having a blank page for a new beginning because lots of companies and money will be wiped out in the process of slowing down. Redirecting and restarting will require a lot of insight and audacity to build a new economy with other values and ways of handling production, transport, distribution and retail.
In the end, we will be forced to do what we should have done already in the first place.

Follow trend forecaster Li Edelkoort’s take on the opportunities for human renewal here.

Li’s take is mirrored by many sentiments and urges online that speaks into the opportunities for human reconnection, slowing down, and reimagining ways of living. All for it! These, we believe, forms an invaluable base of intentions and hope (on this note, we’ve added a poem by Richard Hendrick, caught floating around online a few days ago, hopefully matching your Sunday morning vibes.) Hope, though, needs something more to materialize change. 

COVID-19 is certainly restrictions, illness, and lost lives, but what if all that suffering was not in vain? The intentions to bring about a better world stand strong all around us. 

“During moments of cataclysmic change, the previously unthinkable suddenly becomes reality,” Naomi Klein opens her speech, and continues: “In fact, it’s possible for crisis to catalyze a kind of evolutionary leap.”

It is contributing to this very leap that is our driving force in publishing these perspectives, in fact that’s at core of everything we do at cirka CPH – helping people explore and experiment to create shared benefits for all parties involved (more on that in the near future).

Yet, rewiring entire societies doesn’t come easy. Naomi sheds light on some historical patterns, including the Shock Doctrine, which entails invisible political changes during times of public disorientation. 

“Moments of shock are profoundly volatile. We either lose a whole lot of ground, get fleeced by elites, and pay the price for decades – or, we win progressive victories, that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago.”

“Bailouts for fracking companies, not to mention cruise ships, airlines, and hotels – handouts which Trump could benefit from personally. Which is big problem because the virus isn’t the only crisis we face – there is also climate disruption, and these industries that are getting “rescued” with our money are the ones driving it.”

Watch it here.

Whilst many of the points of reference are specific to the US, their patterns are not unrelatable. For instance, Danish readers (nationally local to us) may recognize the closing of national borders, even as authorities claimed no health benefits of the method.

This is not a ‘rest and wait’-type of situation. Who gets to define the long-term impacts of the Corona crisis is determined by the ability to keep the alternatives to existing policies alive and available, as they endure changing conditions to reach inevitability. 
Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable. – Milton Friedman (as cited by Naomi Klein).

As you go about this day, we would like to send you off with a special treat.

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Timely Insights in an interconnected world

Timely Insights for Climate Action digs into current developments to illuminate an interconnected world.

A global pandemic with severe impacts on people’s lives in most places, says a lot about the times we live in. Join us from your self-quarantine in exploring timely insights from COVID-19 outbreak and beyond, and what it means for climate action.

We’re compiling existing articles to discuss and highlight how they help us understand the ways in which the world is connected. In these days of social distancing, we aim to support ourselves and readers in leveraging the learnings from what’s unfolding right now, to be better suited for catalyzing climate action.

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