In the West we have for some time been aware that we live in a world of unsustainable growth and excessive consumption. When the resources are limited it will come to a point where it stresses the whole system.
And we don’t have to be rocket scientists to see that the systems around us are becoming more interconnected, constrained, volatile and brittle every year. Almost every futurist and systems theorists around the globe have been signalling this for decades.
It is obvious that we are heading in an unsustainable direction.
During the first two decades of this century we have already lived through a number of major disruptive crises. The financial crisis of 2008 and outbreak of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 are maybe two spectacular ones you might remember.
The sad story is that we didn’t learn anything from these crises. We just adjusted some parameters or added a regulatory layer to manage that specific failing mechanisms. And then we continued as before.
Now we are experiencing the next global crisis of probably larger magnitude, the Coronavirus. This one will clearly break our financial systems as well as our health systems. It will also most likely cause a severe blow to our political and global trade systems. Not to mention the myriads of other cascading effects on all levels. And it doesn’t matter that most of the factors creating the crisis are psychological.
Is this the global crisis that will finally reset our collective mental models?
What will really happen when we become isolated en masse? What will go on in our minds when we have learned to refrain from constantly follow the crisis on the Internet. When we go outside just when we need to? When we suddenly find ourselves enjoy reading an old forgotten book and are feeling happy because of we have food on the table and some nice clothes to wear? When we get a feeling of safety when we get back at home and have washed our hands thoroughly?
I think there is a good chance that we will see the world differently when the Coronavirus crisis is normalised; and we will collectively understand that the current model of excessive consumption and perpetual growth is something of the past.
There is of course a real risk that we will just rebuild our systems and continue as before.
But there is a real possibility that a deep and global psychological shift will occur. It could be a shift that opens up the political arenas so we can start building a different and better system. Then we can focus on creating a new more sustainable, resilient and inclusive socety. And not just maintain the one we have been building so far, and which is clearly moving towards an inevitable and ugly end.
I really hope this crisis will lead to a change in our collective psychology. Otherwise we will need an even deeper crisis in order to rewire humanity and change our direction.