From the time of the 1600s and before, people prayed harder, self-flagellated and burned witches to appease an obviously very angry God for extreme weather, war, famine, and other now explainable phenomena.
It appeared to the religious populations of Europe that the supreme deity had unleased miserable weather, crop failures, pestilence, famines, endless wars and widespread death to punish an unworthy humanity.
Or so the societies of Europe were taught to believe. But these beliefs began to come into question as ever greater acts of piety were performed to assuage past sins and move back into the good graces of the Almighty yet relief was not forthcoming. Despite their renewed reverence and extreme sacrifices, the climate worsened and social conditions continued to deteriorate for people not just in Europe but around the globe as so well documented in Geoffrey Parker’s book “Global Crisis”.
While religious leaders questioned themselves on their own failures, asking “For which sins have we yet to atone?”, other individuals began to ask whether all answers actually lay within the confines of religion. To be more exact, it started to occur to some individuals that religions teachings did indeed have limits and could not explain all of what investigative minds could observe and take as fact.
The outcome of this embryonic questioning was a greater investigation of the physical world viewed its own metrics rather than through the lens of the Church dogma. Our understanding of the physical universe began to diverge from the rigid view of the institutions which were ostensibly created to represent the will and truth of God on earth.
Decades of conflict and unpleasantness ensued but science was born, and with it, a new social era and culture of learning. The failure of the dominant framework of society to address the critical needs of the populace had led to critical examination of the basic foundations of the relationship between mankind and the world around us.
But humans long for leadership and those who can profit from supplying it are more than ready to do so. Over several centuries of progress, the commercial economy has become the new god, widely held to be beneficent to all as long as it grows.
Then came Covid-19 which is now doing to conventional economic assumptions what years of bad weather and crop failures did to the established religious order of the 1600s.
Globalism, and the interdependent world of just-in-time-inventory, evolved out of a desire to maximize material production and consumption at the lowest cost without regard for environmental or social impacts. And, as we are quickly learning, without regard for resiliency or the ability to respond to biophysical impacts, which in this case, takes the form of workers not being able to work safely.
Those with complete faith and massive financial interests in a commercially globalized world unwittingly assumed that man and the financial sector had complete dominion over world events. It was felt humanity, with our infinite ability to innovate, combined with the flexibility of the free market system, would be able to overcome any biophysical issue that might present itself.
Markets react but simply reacting to a change doesn’t necessarily overcome the problem. The causes of Covid-19 and its impacts fall outside of the cost structure of the commercial marketplace. How can market based business models be expected to react effectively to, much less anticipate or mitigate, the impacts of externalities?
Climate change and environmental decline are much larger threats to humanity than a pandemic but their impacts occur in more gradual, yet more devastating and complex ways and over far greater time spans. Many people can be lulled to sleep by changes in climate and the disappearance of the planets biological systems as normal shifts a little day by day. In comparison, Covid-19 has appeared with the subtlety of air raid sirens and bombs going off on a Sunday morning in spring.
But the corona virus is a pebble on the road compared to the magnitude and complexity of the impacts climate change and resource shortages will inflict as a bewildering flock of Black Swans descend on our interdependent economic, financial, food, energy and social infrastructure.
The dangers of complexity and lack of biophysical metrics have been obvious to many people who study the physical world for a long time. Early leaders in the first Enlightenment pushed through the cracks that were permeating religious orthodoxy with their early science queries. Similarly, the massive and obvious failure of the economic system to address the challenges of a fairly mild pandemic have opened gaping holes through which decades of pent up questions and criticisms are now flowing.
The Church of Globalism and Monetization has already lost the battle of protecting social and individual health and financial welfare. Sectors critical to security and stability will be brought back within national borders as the dependence on foreign sources for food, energy, critical components and chemicals will be openly called into question. Going forward, governments must demonstrate they are prepared to continue to place human welfare ahead of turning dollars. Post pandemic society, as chaotic as it may be, will likely demand government focus on the well-being of citizens and the planet rather than reverting back to being merely commercial economy cheerleaders.
John Erik Meyer is a small, medium tech business owner with a degree in economics. He has had a number of articles published in Canada’s major newspapers dealing with a range of topics from population, immigration and the environment to the failings of GDP based metrics for social policy formation. He has also presented a paper on the need for Energy Based Currency at a conference of that name in Split, Croatia. Mr. Meyer is currently President of the NGO “Canadians for a Sustainable Society”. He has built solar electric and hot air systems as well as electric bikes and has just built a house which will be (eventually) energy positive. His primary interests are the changes necessary to achieve a sustainable society, population cycles and the reasons for failed human social structures throughout history.
His book “The Renewable Energy Transition, Realities for Canada and the World” has just been published by Springer Nature.
Most recent published article: