... and will we come out better for it - happier, more family-oriented, more eco-friendly... with renewed vigour and zest for life?
Living through a global pandemic has come as a bit of a shock, plunging our lives into turmoil on practically every front, but are there any positives to come out of the human and economic tragedy we are now facing?
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” - said Winston Churchil in the wake of the Second World War. And to most of us, who have never lived through a major war on home soil, the Covid-19 pandemic is the most extreme experience that we have ever had to endure.
Are there any positive effects to this awful pandemic?
"Skies are bluer, fewer cars are crashing, crime is falling, and some other infectious diseases are fading from hospital emergency departments", writes Bryn Nelson in the BMJ, saying that the irony has not escaped the medical profession, noting that the pandemic has changed the way we live to such an extent that there may be a bright side to this pandemic after all.
So, in the spirit of finding positives in a world turned upside down, let's have a look at Nelson's points.
In Mallorca, where we have our hotel - Aparthotel Duva - now open at last and welcoming guests, we have seen some of this first hand. Tourism is our primary industry, so without air travel the island remainded practically empty, not only of tourists, but also of a vast holiday workforce, for the best part of one and a half years. And I must say, in terms of natural beauty, it hasn't looked this good in decades!
In Mallorca many have noticed this, particularly during last summer, when all air traffic ground to a halt. The skies were not only clear but empty too. This has had a very definite impact on the air quality on the island. Not that we want the skies to remain empty, because we don't. We want tourism. We want you to come and visit our island and enjoy your holidays here! But we also want clean air.
One positive impact of the enforced quarantine has been a growing awareness on the island of the importance of protecting our beautiful natural environment, the pure sea air, golden beaches, pine forests and clean water of the Mediterranean, that makes Mallorca feel like paradise, the very thing we invite tourists to come and enjoy.
The sea water is crystal clear
With no cruise ships, ferries and boats in the water, and possibly less pollution as a whole, the beaches and water in Mallorca went from being lovely anyway to startlingly crystal clear and full of sea life in just one year. Makes you wonder what we could achieve if we protected it every year.
Aparthotel Duva and Duvabitat in Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca, with the Bay of Pollensa in the distance
We care more about our health
This devastating pandemic was avoidable in so many ways… and this awareness, along with a growing interest in our health, our lifestyles, in how viruses work and in planet health in general can be no bad thing.
While we may drink more, and most of us put on weight during lockdown, is it possible that we are a bit more aware of the importance of a strong immune system, or of lower stress levels? Do we put more emphasis on surrounding ourselves with loved ones? Is it healthier to feel relaxed and happy? How many of us have protected our health this year more than ever before?
By sharing a common threat, it is possible we have become a little bit more globally minded and empathetic as well. Certainly here, in Mallorca, where family ties are strong, the young have been forced to take the elderly into account, mindful of their delicate health and the bigger risks they face. Which brings me to the next point:
We care more about the older generation
Older parents and grandparents have been amongst the worst affected demographic, with longer enforced lockdowns and greater risk of isolation and loneliness, and of course, a greater risk of suffering more should they get infected. While children and teenagers have been less affected by the virus. In our western societies, where youth and energy are rated so much more highly than wisdom and age, and children given so much attention while the older generation is often forgotten, the pandemic has helped shift our priorities a little, making us all more conscious and empathetic of the older members of our families, and hopefully, of society as a whole.
Renewed respect for our public health systems
And even more than the public’s awareness of their own health, it is the health system which has made it into everyone’s hearts. This enormous army of indispensable health workers, doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers, the hospitals overrun, the shortage of beds, medical and safety equipment and the monumental effort made by everyone everywhere, literally working round the clock on the front lines of the pandemic, has made people more aware than ever how much we need them, and to call for greater investment and support for a strong public health system.
The pandemic has brought the Climate Crisis into the limelight
Climate change may or may not be linked to the pandemic (it's not), but the turmoil a global crisis has wreaked on every corner of our existence may alert us to avoiding a larger crisis in the future. The earlier points of noticing the natural environment around us blooming while we were in lockdown, and how, given the chance, nature will begin to heal on its own, gives a ray of hope to all of us who are worried about the effects of a world out of balance.
We have all become more tech savvy
Technology, Zoom and remote working. Working from home is not for everyone and not all jobs can be done online. But for those who can and enjoy working from home, this has been an opportunity to make that move out of the office.
Schooling has also moved online. Ideally this won’t last, as kids need to be socialised, but it has opened doors to the possibility, and made classrooms everywhere more tech savvy in the process.
Related gains of working from home are increased punctuality, lower CO2 emissions from commuting, and fewer road accidents - meetings moved to Zoom also cut travel time and punctuality losses – less paper waste as offices move towards PDF documents, and best of all - more family time!
We travel less – We travel more for the right reasons
While it may no longer make sense to fly across the world for a 2-day business meeting, when it can be achieved just as well via video conference, it makes even more sense to go on a good holiday abroad! Perhaps it will more appealing in the long run to take fewer, longer international holidays every year, take more time off at one time, thus avoiding the stress of travelling, tests, certificates, and changing travel rules… and enjoy easing into the slower pace of a relaxing, summery resort for a couple of weeks at a time. On the other hand, we may just as easily slip back into our pre-covid pace of life - thankful that we can, and enjoy it all the more.
And so... What is the bright side of this pandemic?
It has been a hard year and a half for the world. Some people have lost more than we can imagine, and our hearts go out to them.
And now, when we thought it would have passed, we still seem to be in the middle of it. Travel remains complicated, though possible at long last. Many of us have now returned to work, and the vaccine roll out is going well. But restrictions abound and to many of us it feels like our lives are still on hold.
It is too soon to know how much we will be changed by the extreme experience of a world pandemic, and what the lasting effects will be. How long will it take before we can get some sense of normality back in our lives. But like all crises before, personal or global, there is much to learn from this, much to feel proud about, and much to feel optimistic about, if only because of all the things we now realise we love and are grateful for.
By facing the possible loss of everything we hold dear, we may have gained a little humanity in the process. With a little luck and positve thinking, we will enjoy many more holidays to come, basking in the sunshine in a friendly Mallorca hotel.