The positive side effect of the corona pandemic seems to be that many who were not yet convinced that humanity should radically change course, may now think differently. On top of the barely controllable climate crisis, unimaginable loss of biodiversity, overconsumption due to overpopulation, came the corona pandemic, which forced millions into a temporary domestic pattern of living that has given many time for reflection. Is the corona pandemic the umpteenth proof that nature will not be manipulated any longer? Should mankind, again or at last, acknowledge to be part of nature, instead of a creature placed above or outside it? Should we first create Mars on Earth, before we become aware of our destructive way of life?.
It is good news that millions of homeworkers are asking themselves these questions and are taking numerous actions in the private sphere. In their efforts for sustainability more people than ever are limiting their meat consumption, separating waste, installing solar panels and insulating their homes. This is also happening in the less privileged parts of the world. Applying the motto: “most people are good”, a majority of people in the world seem convinced that we have to start living differently, as opposed to a minority of extremists who shout that nothing is wrong or one big conspiracy is going on.. Do the well-intentioned private actions make any difference to the bigger picture of a world that, by 2021, will be emitting more CO2 than before the corona pandemic? It does, because without large groups of people thinking differently, no large-scale revolution will get off the ground.
The corona pandemic shows something else. Highly digitalized countries are clearly better off at the moment. Digitalization, which leads to other, more sustainable forms of working and recreating, such as working from home and video conferencing, may be the key to getting rid of our energy- and raw-materials-intensive way of life. From the point of view of saving the environment as well as maintaining a good economy, it is therefore desirable that the world becomes digitalized and the sooner the better.
We finally realize that we can communicate with each other digitally in an excellent and more sustainable way. Should we call this a digital awakening? The realization that diagnoses and consultations by medical doctors are quite possible with digital aids at home? That distance education is not ideal, but otherwise, for young people at a great distance from schools, a good solution? The realization that we can solve numerous disadvantaged situations worldwide by using digital tools, so that poorer populations can make use of modern knowledge? The realization that a smartphone can contain hundreds of types of Apps, which make the physical, non-durable equivalents such as cameras, sound systems, diaries and newspapers redundant and offer better quality?
With all the resistance that people rightly put forward against the great power of tech giants and the services they produce, such as social media and apps, it should also be recognized that it is precisely these digital services that have made people and organizations around the world much more connected with each other. People are now much better informed than they were before about numerous abuses elsewhere, ranging from child labour in the clothing industry to overfishing and the destruction of virgin forests.
This digital awakening is an unstoppable development. People no longer allow themselves to be deprived of the stream of information about what is happening in the world or the possibility of reacting to it and communicating with each other, whether populists or authoritarian regimes like it or not. In Myanmar, the population is organizing itself, thanks to the internet, apps and social media. In Belarus, Russia, Hong Kong, Arab countries the same thing is happening. In Europe, citizens rightly protest against the fact that every country takes its own corona measures.. Why does the use of mouth masks or vaccines vary from one country to another? Why do different rules apply in shops and restaurants from one country to another, when the situations are identical? Why does every country develop its own corona app, instead of one common one? Why does every country have different rules for international travel? Government and national medical advisors can you explain this? It is already no different in other areas. How long will it be possible to explain that one country is taking different measures against CO2 problems than another? Or that one country consciously opts for nuclear energy, France, while another country abolishes it altogether, Germany. The madness of governments who do not want to cooperate, who all act differently, who do not synchronize their policies, is becoming increasingly apparent and is leading to more and more legitimate questions.
Digital awakening is currently in full swing. More and more people – approximately 50% of the world’s population has a smartphone with an internet connection – are increasingly aware of what is happening around them and act accordingly. Digitalization makes the world more transparent, escape is no longer possible and there are tough times ahead for governments and leaders with something to hide. Digitalization appears to be a powerful weapon in the hands of a digitally awakened population. It is now up to governments to create new forms of governance in a world that is digitally awakening and becoming increasingly transparent.