Nearly 100 years after the Spanish Flu, another pandemic has hit the world and hit it hard. As of now, half the Earth’s population is under lockdown. While COVID-19 continues to infect and kill more and more people every day, there are still no signs of the outbreak’s end.
But, after scrutinizing the projections of the current pandemic and impacts of previous ones, I think COVID-19 is going to change the way we live. So, I have listed down some possible effects it could have on human lives.
Since the start of this troublesome episode, we have seen more influence of technology on our daily lives than ever. Though things like video-conferencing, e-learning, telemedicine, and e-commerce were becoming more and more common, they were always alternatives, especially in the developing world. Now, people across the globe are giving preference to these 21st-century methods. Furthermore, many believe that the shortage of cheap labor after the Black Death may have opened the door for technological innovation. Similarly, this pandemic will also accelerate the on-going process of technologization.
Better Living Standard
COVID-19 has caused a global recession, depriving millions of people of their livelihood. There is a spike in poverty and unemployment rates worldwide, and it will continue for some time, but it may increase the average wages and living standards in the long run. It seems very harsh, but the Black Death improved the living standard of its survivors. With the death of many workers, unemployment decreased, and the poor got access to better food. Following the same trend, the Spanish Flu increased the hourly wages of American workers. The Black Death also brought an end to serfdom in Europe. Will the novel coronavirus scrap capitalism?
A Plunging Population
The Black Death killed almost one-third of Europe’s population, and it took 200 years to reach the pre-1348 population level. Similarly, according to some estimates, the Justinian Plague killed half of the Earth’s population. Considering this, it is not difficult to conclude that the human population will face a decline due to COVID-19. But its magnitude might not be the same, thanks to better awareness, hygiene, and the tendency of coronavirus to attack old agers.
New Global Order
COVID-19 has hit the Great Powers of the world the hardest. Will some global players lose the power they enjoy? It is too early to decide, but this disruption will affect their influence to some extent.
Nations who will control the outbreaks sooner will try to extend helping hands to the struggling ones. Using this soft power, they may secure a powerful position in global geopolitics. Therefore, this pandemic may impose a new global order, re-establishing international relations, and giving rise to new global forces.
Studying the past epidemics, we saw that smallpox killed nearly 90% of Native Americans, which helped the Europeans to conquer the Americas. Likewise, the Justinian Plague weakened the Byzantine Empire, and the Antonine Plague ended the Pax Romana (Roman Peace). So, another smaller-than-a-micron virus may alter the course of human history.
According to several experts, the current crisis is helping us to fight a future crisis, climate change. Since the beginning of this disruption, governments around the globe have been shutting down industries and transportation, improving air quality. NASA has been reporting a sharp drop in greenhouse emissions worldwide. Perhaps, the best indicator is the decline in oil consumption. The global oil demand in 2020 was estimated to rise by 825,000 barrels a day but, in contrast, has fallen by 90,000 barrels a day as compared to 2019, according to IEA.
Though these “environmental protection measures” are short-lived, the other changes this outbreak has caused may continue to protect nature longer, namely telecommuting, increase in the usage of bicycles, abandonment of unnecessary events, de-urbanization, and above all, unity among the world leaders.
But, there’s a downside too. This contagious disease means that masses are hesitant to use reusable products. So, more disposable things –mostly made of non-biodegradable materials- will be used and dumped. Ah, more plastic pollution.
Researchers suggest that the decrease in the human population due to the Black Death in Eurasia and smallpox in the Americas might have caused the Little Ice Age. Though we shouldn’t pray for another ice age as it was not a pleasant part of history, we must hope that COVID will halt global warming.
Post-pandemic, the way we live, think, gather, greet, enjoy, commute, and work will perhaps change forever. Of course, we all won’t be wearing hazmat suits round the clock but will restyle our lives.
As discussed above, we may live an e-life, incorporating technology in all the fields. People may adopt fist and elbow bumps as favored ways of greetings, replacing handshakes and hugs. Likely, we will prefer fewer humans around us and will try to dwell in less dense neighborhoods.
As previous pandemics, especially the cholera outbreak, made people more concerned about hygiene, this one will do the same. We will wash hands quite often, think twice before touching anything, wear facemasks as a norm, and avoid dining out. Better medical facilities will be available to the masses as governments would reinforce their health care systems.
Another aspect that will evolve will be our way of thinking. Patriotism will be de-militarized. The state’s strength will be judged by the quality of life index rather than by the number of nuclear weapons owned. As the Black Death made people more devoted to their religions, COVID-19 has and may continue to do so.
Hence, one thing’s for sure that this deadly chapter will change our planet and our lives, but how we react to that transformation can vary. Some people may cherish the opportunity to see their fellow beings again, while others may get addicted to solitude.
What do you think will change? How will you react to that? Let us know in the comments.