All posts filed under: How We Live Next

Reducing the Chance of New Pandemics

It has been months since the novel coronavirus hit Western countries, and many are now wondering how and when normality will return and what a new normal might look like. Some expect that a second wave of infection will be avoided by seasonal properties inherent in the virus, while others contend that this will only happen if strong action is taken to contain it. Some expect that a vaccine will allow a rapid return to the world we had before, while others argue that even if such a vaccine were to be developed, it would permit no such thing. Absent from many of these discussions is how to avoid another situation like this one. The argument can be framed in simple economic terms or in more complex terms related to existential risk and the very future of our species on Earth. The current pandemic is estimated to have cost nations on average a third of the world’s GDP—over 30 trillion US dollars—so spending billions on even a marginal reduction of the probability of another such …

Is State Protection a Threat to Liberal Democracy?

The world is awash with predictions about the impact of COVID-19 on life in the liberal democracies—from more online shopping to less globalisation, from higher taxing governments to more working from home. But most analyses compare 2020 with 2019 and examine the immediate changes wrought by the pandemic alone. Long-term, COVID-19’s impact may turn out to be considerably greater. To fully appreciate the potential consequences of this pandemic we need to examine it in the wider context of the last two decades. It must be seen as part of a series of developments over that period that, collectively, could transform liberal democracy more dramatically than is currently predicted. Those developments have driven the physical and economic insecurity of citizens to levels never previously experienced in the modern liberal democratic state. COVID-19 may be a tipping point for insecurity. Self-preservation may be the new priority that triggers a radical transformation of what the citizens of liberal democracies demand from the state and what the state delivers. Taken too far, that transformation of the citizen/state relationship could …

Pandemics and Pandemonium

Minneapolis and urban centers across America are burning, most directly in response to the brutal killing of a black man by a white Minnesota police officer. But the rage ignited by the death of George Floyd is symptomatic of a profound sense of alienation that has been building for years among millions of poor, working class urbanites. The already diminished prospects facing such people have only been worsened by the unforeseen onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and the policies devised to combat it. Like earlier pandemics, the virus has devastated poorer communities, where people live in the most crowded housing, are forced to travel on public transport, and work in the most exposed “essential” jobs, most of which are badly paid. Unlike the affluent of Gotham, some 30 percent of whom were able to leave town and work remotely, the working class remained, forced to endure crowded conditions as the disease raged through the city. No surprise then that inhabitants of the impoverished Bronx have suffered nearly twice as many deaths from COVID-19 as those …

Moving Away from Meat Means Welcoming the New ‘Flexitarians’

Author and animal-rights activist Jonathan Safran Foer recently argued in a New York Times essay that the COVID-19 pandemic represents a turning point in society’s attitude to eating meat. “Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming,” writes Foer. “A quarter of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are vegetarians or vegans, which is perhaps one reason sales of plant-based ‘meats’ have skyrocketed… Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. Covid-19 has kicked open the door.” I agree the pandemic presents the best opportunity in a generation for animal-rights advocates to win over skeptics. But if and when vegetarian and vegan diets become truly mainstream, it will not be for the reasons Foer emphasizes. Foer provides three main rationales for rejecting meat: (1) “We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly,” (2) we can live “longer, healthier lives” without animal protein, and (3) many forms of animal farming are both cruel and unhygienic. These are valid arguments that …

Drop Anchor: How COVID-19 Will Kill the Cruise Industry

Last week, Air Canada announced it was cutting its workforce by at least half, effective next month. This is not surprising, since flight attendants can’t do their jobs when there are no flights. Air Canada is now flying at one-twentieth its pre-pandemic capacity. The airline hopes to ramp up operations in coming months, but even optimistic estimates put late-2020 airline travel volume at about one-quarter of baseline levels. Similar patterns are playing out everywhere. COVID-19 has decimated the travel industry. It will return, of course, but will it be the same as we remember it? My pre-boomer peers are almost all retirees, many securely well-heeled, and mad for travel. In their salad days, they planned trips hither and yon by themselves or with friends. The food tour through Italy, or the wine tour through France. Bicycles and hiking often were involved, along with local guides who would provide a deep dive into regional culture and history. No wasting away at Del Boca Vista for this set. Even the least ambitious will sign on to group …

PODCAST 90: John Lloyd on the Geopolitical Fall-Out From the Coronavirus Crisis

John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, talks to Toby Young about the geopolitical fall-out from the coronavirus crisis. Will the Conservatives win the next UK election? Can the EU recover its authority? And is this China’s Chernobyl? John recently wrote about these issues for Quillette as part of the ‘After the Virus’ series.

After the Virus: The Way We Live Next

How will we live, or be forced to live, after the pandemic? “I don’t know” is—according to Paul Collier, the famed development economist—the most honest answer to this question and others related to the cause, rise, treatment, and decline of the current pandemic. This is, after all, an unprecedented disease of rare speed and communicability, for which there is no cure and no agreed political and social response. Yet, contradicting himself within weeks, Collier wrote a similarly powerful essay in which he argued that centralisation had failed, and devolution from those who pronounce from on high to those who practice on the ground is necessary. Perhaps he was merely demonstrating that, in this maelstrom of conflicting arguments, no-one, no matter how distinguished, can wholly know his own mind from day to day. In any case, agnosticism is as unwelcome to journalism as it is to governance. And journalists, who operate under fewer constraints than governments, can at least consider some likely alternatives, while remaining alive to the possibility that unknown unknowns will continue to turn up, …

The Age of the Homebody Has Only Begun

The day we’ll all finally be able to safely leave our houses and apartments will also be the day we’ll no longer need to. That’s because the global lockdowns and social-distancing requirements imposed to arrest the spread of COVID-19 have dramatically accelerated the process of making nearly every possible good or service available at our homes. We now have available to us more home entertainment options, and of a higher quality, than ever before. With so many top cultural institutions making their performances available to all online, aficionados are growing accustomed to watching the best live performances—from pop stars performing in pyjamas all the way up to opera and ballet—from the comfort of viewers’ own homes. If anything, people lament not having sufficient time to watch all of these excellent offerings. Many of us have been forced to homeschool our children. In doing so, some of us have been realizing a parenting fantasy or living a parenting nightmare, or both. Either way, we’ve become aware of the many ways in which teaching and learning can …