By: Yariv Cohen
The last few weeks have caused distress all over the world. Since the coronavirus burst into our lives without notice, the reality we live in seems to surpass even the craziest science fiction movies; And as the number of patients continues to climb exponentially, stock markets plummet, fear of a global recession is increasing every day, a cure or vaccine is still a far away dream, and people everywhere are consuming negative updates 24/7.
Not detracting from the severity of the situation, we have to remember that there is always a little light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, even in the most severe crisis that humanity has known in the past, there were small bright-spots and reasons for optimism. When the virus is contained, we will all go back to normal, with hard earned lessons that will have the potential to lead humanity towards a better future.
These are the main lessons that give me a little bit of optimism throughout these difficult days:
Making our world cleaner is possible. Except for some who still choose to ignore the consequences of global warming, most people today agree that the climate crisis is real, dangerous - and requires real action. But alongside growing worldwide acceptance of the need for action, there is always this feeling that no matter what step we take, its impact on the situation will be minimal.
The last few weeks are proving the opposite is true. Since the Corona crisis erupted, many pollutants have been drastically reduced: the number of flights in the world has plummeted, private consumption has declined, and many polluting plants have been suspending operations. It’s enough to take a quick look at the NASA satellite imagery, which shows a “drastic drop” in air pollution levels in China since the epidemic began. A few days ago, NASA released more imagery, this time from Northern Italy (the world’s leading outbreak point of the virus), with pollution levels dropping significantly as well.
The challenges of dealing with the spread of the Coronavirus are vast and negative in most cases, but they also prove that in an emergency, humanity can dramatically reduce the levels of pollution. If we realize that the climate crisis is also a real danger to the lives of millions, we can harness this lesson for the future: reduce the number of flights, encourage work from home (and reduce car travel), lower consumption levels, and lead the world to a greener future.
We can work together. Despite prosperous globalization, recent years have shown little global collaboration. Despite large-scale acute problems, many countries chose not to cooperate with each other, leaving many problems unsolved.
The current crisis is forcing humanity to join hands in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus: Scientists from all over the world are working closely to find vaccine and cure, while national differences are being ignored, all in order to fight the common enemy.
Worldwide collaboration is also critical to the fight against other mega-challenges. Just like the Coronavirus, so does the fight against global warming constitutes for global collaboration; If we continue to collaborate, the chances of success will increase significantly.
Medical technology is the most effective solution for large-scale problems. The main reason for the severity of the current crisis and the difficulty of fighting the coronavirus is numerical: the number of available medical staff, hospital beds and respirators is much lower than the number of severely ill patients. In order to bridge the gap, there is a need for a technological solution that will allow for the collection of samples, indices and even basic treatment for large numbers of people, without the need for human medical teams. Such a solution could have enabled the treatment and diagnosis of large scale, thus significantly reducing the spread of the virus. It would also reduce the risk of infecting medical teams, allow treatment and diagnosis in remote areas, and more.
A holistic, technological solution will probably not be available in the near future, but the obvious need is likely to highlight the field of medical technology and its importance. This is good news for the entire world - and especially for Africa, where millions seek diagnosis or medical treatment (regardless of the Coronavirus), while the number of medical teams per-resident is the lowest in the world. Advanced medical technology will allow for better handling of outbreaks in the future, but for Africa, it could save the lives of many.
Opportunities, innovation, and a new global focus. Every crisis throughout history has brought with it quite a few opportunities for change and innovation. For example, the global economic crisis in 2008, which caused serious damage to markets, companies, and investors all over the world, also constituted the opening shot for continuous years of increases in the stock markets, as well as technological innovation and breakthrough ideas. It is enough to look at 2009, when tech giants such as Airbnb, Github, Pinterest, Slack, Square, Stripe, Uber, WhatsApp, and many others were formed. These companies were not just established immediately after the crisis: They identified new opportunities in the changing market (such as the rise of the “sharing economy”)
The Corona crisis, according to all forecasts, is expected to cause a global economic crisis. The exact intensity is still unclear, but shock waves are likely to be felt, to some degree or another, all over the world. Afterward, quite a few new opportunities will emerge.
Just as the 2008 crisis raised the share of the sharing economy, the expected crisis in 2020 must raise Africa’s global position, to leading global investment potential. With tremendous needs, emerging global entrepreneurship spheres and exceptional levels of innovation, Africa already presents a particularly significant investment opportunity. After the crisis is over, investors from all over the world will need to rethink how to manage their investments - and Africa must be at the top of that list.
It is still too early to know how and when the world will recover from the crisis. We do not know how serious the spread of the coronavirus will be, how many people will die, how serious the economic damage will be and what social consequences it will have. But even in general uncertainty, it is important to remember that humanity has always been able to overcome crisis, and to emerge from it reinforced for a better future.
These are my reasons for optimism.