Lessons from COVID-19: Discussions on Global Systems Change

This is a review of our first EcoCiv Dialogues panel, written by our partners at EcoCiv Korea. 

By Reverend Dongwoo Lee, EcoCiv Korea

On Friday, March 27, 2020, the Institute for Ecological Civilization held a seminar in webinar format entitled “The Most Important Lessons from COVID-19.″ The panel conversation was conducted through Zoom and broadcast live on Facebook. Participants who connected via Facebook Live continued the discussion with a lively commentary about the panel in a chat window.

Panelists who attended the seminar discussed the topic, “A Conversation About Global Systems Change,” sharing opinions about the global prospects of a world post-COVID-19. Mamphela Ramphele is a South African politician and anti-apartheid activist who served as co-chair of the Club of Rome. She was also a director of the World Bank. Jeremy Lent is a writer and founder of the Liology Institute, and is based in Berkeley, California. Elliott Harris is Chief Economist of the UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs and is an expert in the international economy and development. Vandana Shiva is an environmental activist and scholar in India, an expert in anti-globalization and an eco-feminist. Professor Gunna Jung is a teacher and researcher at Hanshin University’s Department of Economics and works with the city of Seoul on a number of developmental projects. He also co-directs EcoCiv Korea. Wm. Andrew Schwartz moderated the seminar.

The panelists all agreed that COVID-19 is an experience shared by the entire human race, and that we do not live independently of each other, rather we all live in a connected, organic relationship. The panelists contended that for this tragic experience to imprint not merely as a trauma for humanity, it needs to be used as an opportunity to restructure our mindset. In particular, the main issues they discussed were how to transform the massively exploitative economic system structured by a neoclassical economic system and globalization.

As we are experiencing coronavirus, something unimaginable is going on. The world’s economy, which never seemed to stop, is now revolving slowly. This is very worrisome, but humanity must take a new perspective to transform it into an alternative system. We need to prevent climate change and the unsustainable way that humans live and turn to sustainable and ecological systems. We need to accelerate these changes by focusing on self-sufficient systems centered on the local, understanding the connectivity between the local and the global, and establishing those relationships. We also need to redefine the concept of wellbeing. We must reorganize as a highly connected organic structure that guarantees a social safety net, rather than defining wellbeing as growing bigger and faster, unconditionally. The AI ​​revolution and basic income are examples. After the virus, the world must create a new normal. Health issues should be expanded to include not only humans, but the whole ecosystem. We must rethink how humanity is liberated with the creative imagination that God has given us. We must strive to discover and achieve a higher value system that transcends a traditional value system of the lower type — based on eating well and writing well.

What should “post-corona” look like? This pandemic increased our capacity for change beyond imagining. Things that previously seemed impossible can now be discussed. Now, we need to pursue a collaboration between local and global in a democratic way, not an authoritative way, and an ecologically alternative system. The deeper the difficulty, the higher the hopes. And the more we do, the more meaningful our actions are.

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