The March 25 Times Colonist editorial on the COVID-19 pandemic states: “Worldwide, the economic impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the Dirty ’30s and damage that lasts for years.” Elsewhere, it refers to “killing the economy” and “measures that of a certainty will wreck the world economy for many years to come.”
This concern with the need to protect and restore the economy plays into a narrative about resilience, usually framed as the ability of people and communities to recover, to bounce back to where they were before the event ever happened.
But there are obvious flaws in that approach. For example, if your community is built in a flood plain and climate change results in more frequent and more severe flooding, does it really make sense to rebuild in the same place, to bounce back to the previous situation?
Much the same can be said about the current economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is helping us see just how much harm our current economic system causes, both to the environment and to people and communities.
So if the current economic system is devastating the planet and harming health, as it is, do we really want to bounce back to the way things were before: Revving up the economy to speed up global warming, increase air pollution and the associated diseases and deaths, hasten resource depletion and species extinctions?
To rephrase the editorial: “Worldwide, the environmental and health impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the booming mid-20th and early 21st centuries and damage that lasts for years” — except that this is damage that lasts for decades, even centuries.