The COVID-19 virus is not the first pandemic to seriously impact humanity, nor will it be the last. This global crisis and existential threat provides an opportunity for humans as a species to determine how we will interact with one another and the earth from now on. We can choose a coordinated, interdependent, and holistic approach, or we can continue haltingly and in vain to deal with global issues selfishly in an ungoverned world.
Beyond a Nationalistic Strategy
A virus that impacts everyone necessitates a world citizen-focused response.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the UN agency attempting to coordinate efforts of national governments in their response to the pandemic. While structures like the WHO encourage local governments to heed their policy recommendations, they have no power to enforce their suggested courses of action. National governments may arbitrarily refuse to follow those guidelines within their self-imposed borders. National governments do what is in their self-interest or that of their leaders’ economic and political priorities. Human-made borders, we have realized, do very little to contain a virus in a free world.
In its proposed 2020-2021 budget, the WHO will receive almost five billion dollars from UN Member-States. This is a miniscule amount of money compared to the two trillion dollars that national governments spend preparing for and waging wars every year. Not only is the WHO underfunded, but also national health institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are severely underfunded in comparison to the life-saving work that they are doing.
It’s not a question of whether the world has the resources and funds to support the health and well-being of all humans and the earth; it is a question of priorities.
National leaders frequently appeal to the security concerns of citizens in expanding military budgets, while ignoring the impact that poor health and environmental degradation has on these same citizens. They argue about scarcity — limited funds and resources should be directed at national military defense, rather than health care, sustainable development, and ecological conservation.
To the detriment of all, national self-defense supersedes defense of people and planet.
In times of crisis, individuals begin to act in panic mode. They become self-absorbed, thinking only about self-preservation. This is understandable because fear and protection of oneself and one’s family are strong motivators of behavior.
Perceived scarcities have created real Scare Cities – people living in states of fear. The individual behaves like a mini nation-state setting up borders, raising their self-interest above all other concerns, and fending off those they perceive as a threat. This selfish mentality has presented itself in the hoarding of toilet paper, sanitizers, and, most importantly medical supplies that first responders, health care workers, and hospitals desperately need.
To help everyone through this crisis, local governments should establish a voucher system to assist those who have no salary or income. And there should be total loan forgiveness on necessities like groceries, medical supplies, housing, and education. Governments could easily provide digital or physical vouchers to everyone each month to pay for necessities. It just means that we need to change priorities from using money to wage wars and build walls, to using money to pay for livingry – tools that support and enhance all life.
Resources are abundant in the world. We can feed, clothe, house, educate, and provide for every human being on the planet, but only if we choose to use and share resources sustainably to help people and protect the earth.
Instead of building weapons like war planes and nuclear bombs, funds and resources must be redirected to advancing both earth and human health as well as environmental and human rights. Currently, less than half of the world’s population has universal health coverage. Global institutions devoted to the rule of law, such as a World Court of Human and Environmental Rights and a World Peace Force, should replace the wastefulness of vast national armies. Think how much humanity could do to ensure healthcare and safe infrastructures for everyone on the planet with the two trillion dollars that national governments spend annually on waging wars.
Our failure to implement global approaches to global crises will inevitably lead to higher death tolls from wars, pandemics, and climate change. How many deaths will occur if we fail to implement a coordinated global system?
Moreover, the human response to this crisis must not be about saving any one economy; it must be about saving individual lives, humanity and the earth as a whole. Human and earth survival are interconnected. We must develop a human and earth consciousness, as well as a governing system that matches this holistic awareness, in order to prevent humanity’s extinction.
What we do now will determine our fate. How seriously will we take our responsibility as world citizens toward each other and the earth? This is a test of our humanity.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.