The clash between business-as-usual economics and the pandemic shows what we really need from our economy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about breathing, recently: how our organisms take life-supporting oxygen from Earth’s clement atmosphere, and exhale waste carbon dioxide back out. I’ve been thinking about how pleasant and normal each breath is, and about the victims of COVID-19, now dying at the rate of thousands every day, their lungs destroyed, gasping desperately for their share of breath. Breath denied.
My research is on the social science side of climate change: trying to understand how we can live better lives using less energy and natural resources. How to protect ourselves and our life support systems at the same time – and what kind of economics would allow us to do this. There are many lessons that translate to the current pandemic-induced economic crisis. Welcome to my crash course in pandenomics: the economics we need in a time of pandemic. Rather fortunately, the lessons also apply to our larger time of climate crisis – this is a revolution we must win now, but from which we will reap benefits far into the future.
Our time of need
The clash between business-as-usual economics and the pandemic demonstrates what we really need from our economy. As businesses and leisure activities grind to a halt, specific categories of jobs are protected. Work and workers we once took for granted now appear clearly as the titans underpinning our daily lives: nurses, doctors, healthcare workers in general, hospital cleaners, grocery store cashiers, stackers and delivery drivers. Somehow, stockbrokers and airline magnates failed to make the list.
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