Who Will Win the Fight for a Post-Coronavirus America?

Every disaster shakes loose the old order. What replaces it is up to us.

By Rebecca Solnit

Ms. Solnit is a writer.

It depends on what we do, and that depends on how we read what’s happening and what we value and how that changes in a time of stunning upheaval. Along with the struggle to overcome a disaster comes a struggle to define what it means. The two struggles are inseparable, and out of them a new order emerges.

No one knows yet what will come out of this crisis. But like so many other disasters, this one has revealed how interconnected we are; how much we depend on the labor and good will of others; how deeply enmeshed we are in social, ecological and economic systems; and how prevention or survival of something as deeply, bodily personal as a disease depends on our collective decisions and those of our leadership.

As consumer spending free-falls while whole populations stay home, will we redefine what is necessary and important and how people’s needs are met? Will addressing climate change seem different in a world where air travel and consumption of consumer goods and of fossil fuel has been significantly curtailed, a world in which it is more possible to imagine sweeping change because so much is already altered?

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One comment

  1. “The only way to fight the plague is with decency,” Camus writes. Because decency in the face of pestilence redeems not just the individual acting in this way, but all of humanity. The virus, and it is both pathogenic and political today, requires everyone to defeat it. Without relenting, however hopeless the effort may seem. As Camus writes elsewhere, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

    In this silent spring, the forsythia has bloomed and the magnolia buds are bursting. Nature, as Rachel Carson chronicled in her “Silent Spring,” published 58 years ago, is telling us something.


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