“The world will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic”. How many times have we heard, or perhaps even spoken these words in recent weeks? The ongoing pandemic has again exposed our vulnerability as a species, but this time the wakeup call has been of a magnitude and urgency that are nothing short of dramatic.
So what will the post-pandemic world look like? This question is often asked as if we were waiting to see what world we will inherit. That would be a grave mistake, because the world after COVID-19 is not a fate but a decision. It is a world that we will build and as such, we are all called to be the best possible architects of our planet’s future.
As architects, we have the chance to build smarter. Today, on the International Day for Biological Diversity 2020, we look to nature for help and inspiration in shaping a better world. To be sure, the last few months have highlighted just how closely connected we are to nature. Healthy, species-rich ecosystems protect us from disease; conversely, homogenous species populations in fragmented habitats encroached on by human development are ideal pandemic breeding grounds.
We have also seen the fragility of our global society exposed – our livelihoods, our food, water and medicine supplies. Let us not forget that healthy nature is also key in providing these. As we construct our post-pandemic future, the global community must ensure that old, biodiversity-depleting habits, and financial flows, are replaced by sustainable ways of working and living. And, more than ever, sound policies and decisions grounded in science, respect for traditional knowledge, a rights-based approach to conservation and development, and international cooperation are essential to our success.
The upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress will provide the foundations of the future we hope for. By bringing together top scientists in the field of nature conservation with leaders from government, civil society, indigenous peoples’ organisations and business, the IUCN Congress will inform and guide the transition to a more sustainable future. It will shape the post-2020 biodiversity framework, which itself will be an essential building block of a healthier, more resilient post-pandemic world.
There is no going back to the world we left in our now-empty offices, airports and factories. By rebuilding better, we cannot undo the devastating suffering the pandemic has caused. But we can and will ensure that the future is safer, more resilient and sustainable. No, the world after COVID-19 will not be the same. If we are responsible and forward-looking as architects, it will be much better.