Image credit: The World In 2050 [The Real Future Of Earth], YouTube - Photo: 2020

Pandemics: Lessons Looking Back from 2050 – Part 2

Viewpoint by Fritjof Capra and Hazel Henderson*

This article was originally published on Other News, a vehicle for “voices against the tide” and is being reproduced with thanks. Please click here for Part 1.

Berkeley | JACKSONVILLE (IDN) – When the coronavirus struck in 2020, the human responses were at first chaotic and insufficient, but soon became increasingly coherent and even dramatically different. Global trade shrunk to only transporting rare goods, shifting to trading information. Instead of shipping cakes, cookies and biscuits around the planet, we shipped their recipes and all the other recipes for creating plant-based foods and beverages; and locally we installed green technologies: solar, wind, geothermal energy sources, LED lighting, electric vehicles, boats, and even aircraft.

Fossil fuel reserves stayed safely in the ground, as carbon was seen as a resource, much too precious to burn. The excess CO2 in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning was captured by organic soil bacteria, deep-rooted plants, billions of newly planted trees, and in the widespread re-balancing of the human food systems based on agrochemical industrial agribusiness, advertising and global trading of a few monoculture crops.

This over-dependence on fossil fuels, pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics in animal-raised meat diets, all were based on the planet’s dwindling fresh water and proved unsustainable. Today, in 2050, our global foods are produced locally, including many more overlooked indigenous and wild crops, saltwater agriculture and all the other salt-loving (halophyte) food plants whose complete proteins are healthier for human diets.

Mass tourism, and travel in general, decreased radically, along with air traffic and phased-out fossil fuel use. Communities around the world stabilised in small- to medium-sized population centres, which became largely self-reliant with local and regional production of food and energy. Fossil-fuel use virtually disappeared, as already by 2020 it could no longer compete with rapidly developing renewable energy resources and corresponding new technologies and upcycling of all formerly-wasted resources into our circular economies of today.

Because of the danger of infections in mass gatherings, sweatshops, large chain stores, as well as sports events and entertainment in large arenas gradually disappeared. Democratic politics became more rational since demagogues could no longer assemble thousands in large rallies to hear them. Their empty promises were also curbed in social media, as these profit-making monopolies were broken up by 2025 and now in 2050 are regulated as public utilities serving the public good in all countries.

The global-casino financial markets collapsed, and economic activities shifted back from the financial sector to credit unions and public banks in our cooperative sectors of today. The manufacture of goods and our service-based economies revived traditional barter and informal voluntary sectors, local currencies, as well as numerous non-monetary transactions that had developed during the height of the pandemics. As a consequence of wide-spread decentralisation and the growth of self-reliant communities, our economies of today in 2050 have become regenerative rather than extractive, and the poverty gaps and inequality of the money-obsessed, exploitive models have largely disappeared.

The pandemic of 2020, which crashed global markets, finally upended the ideologies of money and market fundamentalism. Central banks’ tools no longer worked, so “helicopter money “and direct cash payments to needy families, such as pioneered by Brazil, became the only means of maintaining purchasing power to smooth orderly economic transitions to sustainable societies. This shifted the US and European politicians to create new money and these stimulus policies replaced “austerity” and were rapidly invested in all the renewable resource infrastructure in their respective Green New Deal plans.

When the coronavirus spread to domestic animals, cattle, and other ruminants, sheep and goats, some of these animals became carriers of the disease without themselves showing any symptoms. Consequently, the slaughter and consumption of animals dropped dramatically around the world. Pasturing and factory-raising of animals had added almost 15 percent of annual global greenhouse gases. Big meat-producing multinational corporations became shorted by savvy investors as the next group of “stranded assets”, along with fossil fuel companies. Some switched entirely to plant-based foods with numerous meat, fish, and cheese analogues. Beef became very expensive and rare, and cows were usually owned by families, as traditionally, on small farms for local milk, cheese, and meat, along with eggs from their chickens.

After the pandemics subsided, and expensive, vaccines had been developed, global travel was allowed only with the vaccination certificates of today, used mainly by traders and wealthy people. The majority of the world’s populations now prefer the pleasures of community and online meetings and communicating, along with travelling locally by public transport, electric cars, and by the solar and wind-powered sailboats we all enjoy today. As a consequence, air pollution has decreased dramatically in all major cities around the world.

With the growth of self-reliant communities, so-called “urban villages” have sprung up in many cities – re-designed neighbourhoods that display high-density structures combined with ample common green spaces. These areas boast significant energy savings and a healthy, safe, and community-oriented environment with drastically reduced levels of pollution.

Today’s eco-cities include food grown in high rise buildings with solar rooftops, vegetable gardens, and electric public transport after automobiles were largely banned from urban streets in 2030.  These streets were reclaimed by pedestrians, cyclists and people on scooters browsing in smaller local stores, craft galleries and farmer’s markets. Solar electric vehicles for inter-town use often charge and discharge their batteries at night to balance electricity in single-family houses. Free-standing solar-powered vehicle re-charger units are available in all areas, reducing use of fossil-based electricity from obsolete centralised utilities, many of which went bankrupt by 2030.

After all the dramatic changes we enjoy today, we realise that our lives are now less stressful, healthier, and more satisfying, and our communities plan for the long-term future. To assure the sustainability of our new ways of life, we realise that restoring ecosystems around the world is crucial so that viruses dangerous to humans are confined again to other animal species where they do no harm. To restore ecosystems worldwide, our global shift to organic, regenerative agriculture flourished, along with plant-based foods, beverages and all the saltwater-grown foods and kelp dishes we enjoy. The billions of trees which we planted around the world after 2020, along with the agricultural improvements gradually restored ecosystems.

As a consequence of all these changes, the global climate has finally stabilised, with today’s CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere returning to the safe level of 350 parts per million. Higher sea levels will remain for a century and many cities now flourish on safer, higher ground. Climate catastrophes are now rare, while many weather events still continue to disrupt our lives, just as they had in previous centuries. The multiple global crises and pandemics, due to our earlier ignorance of planetary processes and feedback loops, had widespread tragic consequences for individuals and communities. Yet, we humans have learned many painful lessons. Today, looking back from 2050, we realise that the Earth is our wisest teacher, and its terrible lessons may have saved humanity and large parts of our shared planetary community of life from extinction. [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 May 2020]

* Fritjof Capra, Ph.D., physicist and systems theorist, is the author of several international bestsellers, including The Tao of Physics (1975) and The Web of Life (1996). He is co-author, with Pier Luigi Luisi, of the multidisciplinary textbook, The Systems View of Life. Hazel Henderson, D.Sc.Hon., FRSA, futurist, systems, and science-policy analyst, is author of The Politics of the Solar Age (1981, 1986) and other books, including Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age (2014). Henderson is CEO of Ethical Markets, publishers of the Green Transition Scoreboard®, and the forthcoming textbook and global TV series ’Transforming Finance’.

Image credit: The World In 2050 [The Real Future Of Earth], YouTube

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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